A visit, a sanctuary 

 

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A painting by Enedina Vasquez

We have spent three Sundays listening to the strong and powerful voices of wise men and prophets. Men sharing news of what is to come – proclaiming good news and warning of the importance to prepare.

This Sunday the themes of sharing good news and preparation are ever-present yet we now shift to the gentle, honest exchange between two women. Filled with excitement and awe they share their insights. Together they can  acknowledge the holy children they each have been called to birth and mother. They can openly share their excitement and concern. They can support one another as they experience the wisdom they have gained, the sacred they now carry.

Elizabeth and Mary greet one another with a sacred kiss and in her elder-wisdom, Elizabeth shelters Mary as she gathers her strength to proclaim God’s good news to the world. The good news that justice will rain down and mercy will be ever known.  The scene has changed.

The time is near. As we have heard in the past weeks and here on this fourth Sunday of Advent, all of creation is preparing. May we continue to do the same. 

A Blessing Called Sanctuary

You hardly knew
how hungry you were
to be gathered in,
to receive the welcome
that invited you to enter
entirely—
nothing of you
found foreign or strange,
nothing of your life
that you were asked
to leave behind
or to carry in silence
or in shame.

Tentative steps
became settling in,
leaning into the blessing
that enfolded you,
taking your place
in the circle
that stunned you
with its unimagined grace.

You began to breathe again,
to move without fear,
to speak with abandon
the words you carried
in your bones,
that echoed in your being.

You learned to sing.

But the deal with this blessing
is that it will not leave you alone,
will not let you linger
in safety,
in stasis.

The time will come
when this blessing
will ask you to leave,
not because it has tired of you
but because it desires for you
to become the sanctuary
that you have found—
to speak your word
into the world,
to tell what you have heard
with your own ears,
seen with your own eyes,
known in your own heart:

that you are beloved,
precious child of God,
beautiful to behold, *
and you are welcome
and more than welcome
here.

—Jan Richardson 
from Circle of Grace

Christmas message from the Presiding Bishop

The story of Christmas as told by a prophet! 

Christmas message 2011

See, your salvation comes – Isaiah 62:11

The great prophets before Jesus proclaimed a vision of a nation and a people redeemed.  We continue to share that yearning – as the Christmas hymn puts it, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”  We’ve seen abundant hopes spring up in the past year across the Arab world and Eastern Europe, and in the global Occupy movement.  Those voices seek a world of greater justice, communities in which decisions and the gifts of creation are more available to all.  Our understanding of salvation is most profoundly about justice in community, and as Christians we believe that help and healing for all are grounded in the incarnate presence of God – among us and within us.

We look for salvation to the one who came among us in the most humble way, a helpless child born in a scandalous way to a poor peasant couple.  The Incarnation, God with us, changed the world in ways that we insist are leading to the ultimate healing of all creation.  “See, your salvation comes,” says the prophet in every age, yet it is not yet fully come upon us.  We live in hope for its fullness.  May hope be nourished within us, in each and every human being and community, for the journey toward God’s healed and holy future.

That proclamation of coming salvation is a part of Isaiah (Isa 62:6-12) that will be read in some congregations at Christmas, but if you don’t hear it, go and read the whole of it.  Its centerpiece speaks of what that salvation looks like:

  The Lord has sworn…
            I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies,
                        and foreigners shall not drink the wine for which you have labored;
            but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the Lord,
                        and those who gather it shall drink it in my holy courts.       Isa 62:8-9

That is not a vision of pristine isolation, but a vision of comfort and healing to a people frequently at war, occupied, or exploited by superior forces.  The fear of powerful others taking and using for themselves the produce of the poor is healed and transformed into a society in which the gifts God provides will be shared by all.  For when salvation comes, that society will

be called, ‘the Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord’;
            and you shall be called, ‘Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.’                Isa 62:12

Jesus comes among us to remind us of a world living together in peace, to reclaim and make real that vision of creation for all humanity and all God’s creatures. That world is put right as relationships between God and humanity are set right. The relationship between God and human being cannot be set right without equal healing of relationships between us mortals.  See, your salvation comes!  Will we welcome that healing?