Advent is Not for the Hopeful, it is for the Tenacious

This post is an excerpt from a sermon I preached Dec. 4. Find the full text here.

This Advent, I’ve heard many Christians saying how excited they are for the season of hope and comfort. After the stress of the election and the beating 2016 has given us, they ask to avoid the dark things and focus on the hope.

When I hear this, I wonder if these Christians are really want comfort or if they want stability. If they are asking to hear peace, peace when there is no peace. I wonder if these Christians are searching not for hope, but for the opiate of the masses. When spoken by the privileged, pleas of hope can sound like pleas for ignorant bliss. Let’s speak of hope, they say, because we have the luxury of choosing when we have to confront oppression.

When the people asking for hope live in middle- and upper-class comfort, it sounds like they are asking for permission to bury their heads in the sand. Continue reading

Let It Go: The Magnificat

One could argue that Mary’s Magnificat, the song she sings upon seeing her cousin Elizabeth, functions in the same way that Elsa’s song “Let It Go” does in Frozen. Elsa is free not just of the constant pressure to be someone else, but in being herself, creates a new world where those on the margins (those who thrive in winter) are welcome for their gifts. Mary doesn’t just sing “my soul magnifies the Lord,” she sings “God has scattered the proud-hearted… God has pulled down the powerful from their thrones… sent the rich away empty.” Let it go, she sings, all those repressive forces are gone. This is a moment of coming in to her own because she’s free of what held her back.

Think of the Magnificat as a Disney-like musical montage in which Gaston falls to his death; Jafar is banished to a tiny lamp in the desert; Yzma is turned into a kitten. It’s not just that evil is defeated, but the evil embedded in governing structures–the governing structures themselves–are eliminated. (Of course, Disney never dismantles capitalism in their films, but one can dream.) Mary rejoices in the dismantling of the existing system: #wearethe99percent. She rejoices in every member of congress suddenly resigning; in the Pope’s conciliatory shift toward women religious in North America; in JP Morgan dissolving their assets and paying off Greece’s debt and end austerity measures. (If you’re in some kind of mood, you might hear Mary sing “My soul magnifies the Lord… fuck the police.” If she’s not singing it now, she’ll very well be singing it by the time her son is a victim of state-sponsored terrorism.) Mary is revolutionary. Continue reading

The Mad Farmer and the Hard Work of Joy

It’s been a long couple of weeks, hasn’t it? What with Michael Brown’s grand jury; the grand jury on Eric Garner’s case; all the other recent headlines on police brutality; and on top of it, the ongoing hopelessness of immigration reform; the looming prospect of Keystone XL; the dry, dry winter; the intersectionality of it all.

Who even noticed we’re halfway through Advent? (On the church calendar, not the picture pop up calendar you buy from the toy store or the German market.) My church’s theme this Advent is Faith on Tiptoes, in the traditional four parts. No, you Mennonites, not bass, tenor, alto, soprano–the other four parts: hope, peace, joy love. Continue reading