Readings and reflection from Sunshine Cathedral in Second Life, Sunday, December 6, 2015, Advent 2.
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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 we light the second candle in our Advent Wreath, the candle of Peace. As we begin our service let us reflect on ways we can build and rebuild peace in our relationships, our families, our workplaces, our communities and in our world.
The Call to Worship
Lift up your hearts, people of God,
for the Holy One has looked favorably upon us
and is sending us the beloved one.
ALL: The Eternal One is raising up for us a mighty savior
in the house of David.
God is showing the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered the holy covenant,
the oath God swore to our ancestors Abraham and Sarah,
that we might serve without fear.
ALL: We go before the Lord, following John the Baptist,
to prepare the way of the Lord.
Come, let us worship and listen to the voice crying out in the wilderness.
(Adapted from a piece written by Rev. Stephen M. Fearing - www.stephenmfearing.com)
many of us are waiting:
the war-torn are waiting for peace,
the hungry are waiting for bread.
the refugees are waiting for a homeland,
the sick are waiting for healers…
O Lord, come quickly, we pray. Amen.
(adapted from a prayer from Sudan, 21st century. http://www.bruceprewer.com/b_her.htm)
Odes of Solomon 38
“I move up into the light of Truth as into a chariot and Truth takes me…Truth causes me to pass across canyons and ravines and preserves me against waves smashing against cliffs. Truth is my haven…and puts me in the arms of Everlasting Life. Truth goes with me, soothes me, keeps me from error…Truth proceeds on the upright Way.”
“John [son of Zechariah] went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance…as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, clear a path for him. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and…the rough ways will made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
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This week in the United States yet another mass shooting has captured the news. This time the shooters are observant Muslims. This time those who preach hate and fear can use this latest slaughter to feed into the terror that ISIL and other radical hate groups around the world perpetuate. This week we deal with the ugliest in human nature both in the shooters and in those who strive to divide us from one another by feeding fear of one another.
As a follower of Jesus I want my life to be about striving for justice and peace for all people. I want to build up the human family, not feed the fear that divides us. I want to find ways to have dialogue that leads to peace rather than spewing rhetoric designed to divide us.
It is my belief that much of the violence and oppression that exists in the world today is fueled by religious fanaticism from many sources. Yes there are some who follow Islam who make bombs and slaughter innocents. Yes there are some followers of Judaism that seem to thrive on conflict rather than peace. There are even radical Buddhists who use violence to intimidate. And yes, dear friends, there are those who call themselves Christian who seek to demonize anyone who does not believe as they believe.
It is my firm belief that if we regularly engage in interfaith dialogue, looking for the similarities in our faith traditions rather than exploiting the differences, we would find a central message in each of our traditions that would prohibit anyone who tries to live faithfully from preaching violence and hate. That common theme, that central tenet of all the world’s religions is the simple idea, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Said another way, “Do not do to others what is hateful to you.”
I believe this is the “Truth” that our first reading talks about today. Truth does not divide us. Truth does not require us to vilify others’ faith. Truth requires us to recognize that we are all part of one human family, all made in the image of a Creator so diverse that we reflect many different cultures, many different skin colors and body types, and many different manifestations of religion. “Truth is [our] haven…and puts [us] in the arms of Everlasting Life. Truth goes with [us], soothes [us], keeps [us] from error…Truth proceeds on the upright Way.”
This season of Advent is a season of hope for what can be. It is a season to rebuild the peace that was present in Eden at the dawn of creation. Advent is the season of waiting in joyous expectation for the love of the Christ to be born in our hearts again. Rebuilding peace means repairing the world. The Jewish tradition calls it Tikkun Olam. As the Pirkei Avote says, “[We] are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are [we] free to desist from it (2:21).” Making justice love is our lifelong calling.
As our gospel lesson reminds us today we are not called to create obstacles and place roadblocks as conditions to peace. We are called to smooth the way for peace, tear down the mountains of fear and resentment and fill in the valleys of hate and violence. We are called to make way for the coming of peace into the world again, no matter how unlikely it may seem. We are called to live in hope and work for peace in everything we do. And when we come into contact with one of our brothers or sisters who is discouraged we are called to lift them up, encourage them, listen to them, understand them.
This week as we continue our Advent journey let us temper our words, let us wrestle with our own suspicion and fear, let us seek out someone of another faith and ask them about their tradition, their faith journey. Let us engage in our own interfaith dialogue in our own lives where we live and work. Let us contribute to a well of peace that has the power to wash over violence and fear and hatred. Let us rebuild peace in the world one person at a time, one day at a time. Amen.
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