Readings and reflection from Sunshine Cathedral in Second Life, Sunday, November 29, 2015, Advent 1.
Visit us in Second Life, (http://www.secondlife.com) and search for Sunshine Cathedral.
Welcome to Sunshine Cathedral. This is a house of prayer for all people. All are welcome here. Whoever you are and where ever you are on your spiritual journey you bring special gifts to share. And we pray that you will find spiritual nourishment for your journey here.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. It’s beginning of the church year. It is the time of waiting and preparing to accept the light of Christ anew into our lives. As we light the first candle of our Advent Wreath this year please join me for our call to worship.
The Call to Worship
The God who speaks comfort to us calls us here.
ALL: The God who addresses us with tenderness meets us here.
The God who guides us with gentleness cares for us here.
ALL: We come to prepare a way for the Lord.
We come to ready ourselves for transformation.
ALL: For the glory of Christ is revealed, and all people will see it.
Be not perplexed,
Be not afraid,
God does not change.
Patience wins all things.
For the one who has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices. Amen
(Prayer by Saint Teresa of Avila at http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Prayer/2009/12/Prayers-for-Hope-and-Comfort.aspx?p=7#QtPR2BwdkqSZZMiX.99)
From “Saved From Salvation” by Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
“Redemption is another word that has been misused to the point of being almost irredeemable itself. But I remember ‘redeeming’ coupons and soda bottles many years ago. A fifty-cent coupon was worth fifty cents, a soda bottle or aluminum can also had a predetermined value. To redeem something was to claim its value. Redemption for me isn’t about being saved from worthlessness, but, rather, having our innate worth, our sacred value affirmed, claimed, acknowledged. To be redeemed is to be reminded that our essence is whole and holy and at our core we are amazing beings of energy, beauty, and unlimited potential.
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Human One coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Click on the audio bar below to hear the audio.
There are several scripture passages, most from Revelation, that scared the wits right out of me as a child. And our reading from Luke today is one of them. In my child’s mind I would look up into the sky and imagine what it would be like to see Jesus coming back to earth on a cloud as is on some heavenly elevator, to save us all from the violence and fear that gripped many of us growing up in the US during the Cold war with the Soviet Union. We practiced “duck and cover” exercises in school pretending that our small wooden desks might shield us from the intense heat and gamma radiation of an atomic bomb.
As I said in my reflection in Second Life last week, this idea that “daddy” is someday going to come down from above to save us from the daily onslaught of violence that batters us from every electronic device we own, the ultimate co-dependent theology.
But our wonderful first reading today combined with the Revised Common Lectionary reading from Luke has shifted my focus completely on this passage and certainly given me a renewed sense of hope in how we can continue to reinterpret the sacred texts of Christianity in our time.
First let’s look at the Merriam Webster Dictionary online definition of the word redemption.
noun re·demp·tion \ri-ˈdem(p)-shən\
: the act of making something better or more acceptable
: the act of exchanging something for money, an award, etc.
Christianity : the act of saving people from sin and evil : the fact of being saved from sin or evil
Hopeful to be sure and this definition certainly reflects an accurate range of interpretations that I have heard with regard to the word and the theological concept of redemption. But it occurs to me that we can only end up here if we begin with the idea that we are inherently evil, inherently bad, and inherently sinful. Here we are, right back to Augustine and Pelagius’ argument about how evil enters the world and what we call the Doctrine of Original Sin.
Durrell’s very welcome and poignant thoughts reminded me of the days of collecting S&H green stamps when I was a child. I took it upon myself in our household to gather up all the green stamps, get out the empty stamp books and carefully paste them into the books. For those of you who are too young to remember this ritual, the filled books could be exchanged for all kinds of items much like I can use my American Express or Marriott points these days. Maybe we would get a new pressure cooker or a new iron? Maybe a new set of glasses or a frying pan. It didn’t really matter. What mattered to me is that not one little green stamp ended up in the trash. I wanted them all carefully pasted into the books, so that their inherent worth was recognized and not wasted.
This first reading has opened a whole new world for me to think about our inherent worth. I have a whole new and deeper understanding of the sacred worth of every human being and all of creation for this Advent Season. I came across this little phrase during my preparation and I thought it was just so perfect for today. “Jesus did not come to make God’s love possible. Jesus came to make God’s love visible.” The clearest image we will ever see of the Christ is in our own mirror. Every single day we look into the face of God
Just as Durrell’s thoughts on redemption have changed my view of redemption today and given me new hope, I’m suddenly seeing this Advent season in a new way. We all have heard the phrase, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Today I’m thinking that what is really true is that “Love is the reason for the season.” If we learn to recognize our own worth, if we redeem ourselves from the hideous idea that we are born evil and need to become worthy or that some price has to be paid for our very existence, then I think we may not be so quick to judge our fellow images of God. If we recognize our own worth we are more likely to safeguard the welfare of all of humanity and creation itself.
And so my thoughts come full circle today from the image of a human form descending from the clouds to this quote from blessed Maya Angelou…
“Each of us comes from the Creator trailing wisps of glory.” Those clouds I looked toward as a child expecting Jesus to come back to save us now remind me of the trails of glory each one of us leaves in the sky when we come from God to enter this world and spread the love of God in bringing hope to the world.
We are not waiting for Jesus to return we are waiting for our own consciousness to return to the knowledge that we come from God and are fully capable of sharing God’s love with the world every single day. That’s a good way for me to begin Advent in hope this year. So I want to share that hope with you. Amen