These weeks when we cannot gather in person for Sunday worship, Lakewood United Church of Christ is providing brief weekly sabbath programs for you to listen to on your own or with others in your social isolation group. They will be posted on Friday so that you can schedule your sabbath time to suit your schedule and your spiritual inclinations. We hope these programs are of spiritual support to you in these difficult times.
The post this week focuses on the theme for the second Sunday of Advent – peace.
This post includes a scripture reading from Sue Sherwood, a reflection from Rev. Kim Wells and a music video by Hilton Jones. We hope this post helps to feed your spirit in these difficult times as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
You are invited to find a quiet space, inside or outside. Light a candle. Take a look around you. Breathe. Life-giving breath. Be present.
You may begin with this reading:
Bright God of Advent:
Blaze in our darkness.
Incinerate our iniquity.
Light up our road.
Riddle the ashes
of our desires.
Rekindle in us
your justice and love.
When you are ready, start the video/audio below.
Here is what I will say on the video-
Greetings and welcome to Corona Sabbath. This is one of the ways the church is endeavoring to offer spiritual support during these challenging days of COVID-19. We appreciate your feedback and suggestions.
We listen to verses from Psalm 85 that remind us of God’s dreams for peace. In this Advent season, we seek to rekindle our dreams of peace.
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
Yahweh, favor your land once again
and restore the fortunes of Israel;
forgive the guilt of your people
and cover all their sins.
I will listen to what you have to say, Yahweh –
a voice that speaks of peace,
peace for your people and your friends
so long as they don’t return to their folly.
Your salvation is near for those who revere you
and your glory will dwell in our land.
Love and faithfulness have met;
justice and peace have embraced.
Fidelity will sprout from the earth
and justice will lean down from heaven.
Yahweh will give us what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
Justice will march before you, Yahweh,
and peace will prepare the way for your steps.
Reflection from Kim
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet: righteousness and peace will kiss each other. What a beautiful verse. It points to the future with hope. What a beautiful dream for the future.
But there is another translation of this verse: “Love and faithfulness have met; justice and peace have embraced.” The verbs are in the past tense. It is a reference to something that God has done in the past.
In one version, the verbs are translated in the in the future tense: Will meet. Will kiss. And in another translation, the verbs are translated in the past tense: Have met. Have embraced. Which is right? Given the ancient documents involved, we may not know exactly. Both may have validity. And I believe in this Advent season, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, both versions speak to us.
This is a season to look back. To look back to the life and ministry and teachings of Jesus. To look back to how his life has impacted the human history. To look back to the stories surrounding the birth of Jesus. It is a time to look back and feel grounded in the words and traditions that mark this season. The translation of the Psalm in the past tense invites us to look back and see what God has done. To think about when love and faithfulness have met and justice and peace have embraced. Certainly in the life of Jesus. And, in more recent years, I see this meeting in the ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. among others.
The translation in the future tense is also important this season because Advent is by nature oriented to the future. We are anticipating the advent of something. We are getting ready for something. We are expectant about what will happen. We think about what the ministry and life of Jesus mean for today and for the future. And as we prepare to celebrate Christmas, and the birth of the Prince of Peace, we do so with hope for the peace that Jesus will bring. As we look around us, we long for the time when love and faithfulness will meet, and righteous and peace will kiss. Oh how beautiful that will be! We ache for the peace that we see promised in Jesus to be manifest among us today.
Peace always has a past and a future dimension. If you try to pursue peace without looking back, much is missed. There are things to learn from the past. There are often things in the past that need to be examined and acknowledged with honesty. Our country is in that process dealing with the legacy of racism. Peace involves the healing of the past.
But peace also has a future orientation. Peace invites us to see new visions and dream new dreams about how things can be. We don’t have to stay stuck where we are. We don’t have to let ourselves be controlled by the past. We can be looking to a different future.
Love and faithfulness meeting, justice and peace embracing. These images are stirring. They are comprehensive in scope. They are energizing. They are soaring. They are alluring. They are soothing. They reflect back and they shine forward. And isn’t that what this season is really all about? A time to dream again. To inject the mundane with some magic? To embrace the lengthening darkness which gives the stars more time to shine?
This is a season to rekindle our dreams of peace. To imagine a world where another young black man does not get killed at the Food Max on 18th Avenue South. To imagine a world where no child goes hungry. To imagine a world with more equitable economic systems and fewer guns. To imagine a world in which people resolve their differences with words not weapons. To imagine a world that is sustainable and healthy?
What are your visions of peace? What does the meeting of love and faithfulness look like to you? What does justice and peace embracing look like to you?
In this precious holy season, let us look back seeking peace and let us look forward dreaming peace. Amen.
(Click HERE if you wish to see the post containing the video of this text.)