I had some fun writing four haikus that hopefully capture some of the spirit of Advent at Columbus Mennonite this season. If you have one send it my way and I’ll add it to the blog:
Come in from the cold
Mystery saved you a seat
Watch. Christ will sneak in.
Lion, lamb, mice, birds,
Murmurating with Mennos
Peace could find us yet
Children shall lead them, a play
In which all have parts
How to fill a church:
Create beautiful music
People will show up
These four comes from Paul R:
Light a candle, Love
Heard our prayers and answered! Joy:
Harbinger of Peace.
Second candle lit
Half the circle burning bright
Redemption draws near.
Light another. Ask:
Who wise men and shepherds seek?
Who answers His knock?
Fourth and final flame:
Contemplate the mystery
Christ, for us, is born!
John the Baptist is always a central character during the second week of Advent. He is, in the words of Isaiah, “a voice calling out in the wilderness.” His message was simple and direct, even harsh. “Repent.” Change your mind, change your actions, change your life. Get ready for the one who baptizes not with water, but with Spirit. The town and city folk go out into the wilderness to hear his message.
On Sunday I suggested that the creaturely world – domesticated and wild – also speak to us in ways that teach wisdom and repentance. Starlings made a cameo at the end of the sermon because of their group behavior in a murmuration, flying together and tracking their closest neighbors’ directional patterns, resulting in beautiful aerial ballet. If you’ve never seen a murmuration (or even if you have), treat yourself to this four minute video It starts to get really interesting around 1:20 and keeps getting more dynamic after that. Apologies if you think Pachelbel’s Canon in D is overdone. You may need to watch it in full picture mode to get the image.
The flip side of starlings is that they are fairly invasive birds. They, like those of us with white skin, are nonnative to this land and came over from Europe, in the 19th century. One birding website reports that starlings “are aggressive when competing for nesting sites and readily drive out native species.”
Capable of dazzling and beautiful group behavior, and capable of displacing and usurping other life forms. Sound familiar? : )
What does repentance even look like for us? We need baptized not only with the physical source of life, water, but also with Spirit to guide us through these days.
Our theme this Advent season is Mystery. It’s a powerful word and idea. It’s the kind of word that demands more words, to get to the bottom of it. Or, the surrender of all words, silence, to confess there is no bottom. “Be still…,” Psalm 46:10. “No one knows…,” Matthew 24:36
This week I reopened Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, and she says, “Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery…We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what’s going on here. Then we can at least wail the right question into the swaddling band of darkness, or, if it comes to that, choir the proper praise.”
At CMC, we approach faith not as a path to certainty, but faith as a way of living with mystery. A way of going about life that beholds the depth of things, while acknowledging that we are “a faint tracing on the surface of mystery.”
Advent invites us to “wail the right question” as well as “choir the proper praise,” as best our trembling voices are able. There’s something beautiful that happens when this is done in a congregation of people. Especially when some of those people have been singing four part harmony their whole lives (I’m not one those)! Being saved from our own isolation is part of experiencing the mystery of Christ.
This Sunday we will be guided by the words of Isaiah 11:1-10 – the peaceable kingdom – and Matthew 3:1-12 – the prophet out in the wilderness calling for repentance.