1 Advent B 2011
Isaiah 64: 1-9; Ps 80; 1 Cor 1: 3-9; Mark 13: 24-37
My Uncle John had a good hard fastball and a wicked curve.
John played sandlot ball back when adult men played sandlot ball and the level of play was good, very good. One day he came home from a practice and told his mom, my grandmother, “A man wants me to come with him and practice baseball, see if I can play for money.”
“What!” his mother cried. “Quit your good job at the shoe factory and go play a kids’ game! I’ll hear none of it!”
The man that had approached my Uncle John was a scout for the Yankees, and he’d asked John down to spring training in Florida. Funny the doors that open in our lives, the ones we walk through and the ones we choose not to. That was the late ‘20’s, and John had a chance to play on the same team as Babe Ruth.
Today we’re given a rare invitation too—to play in the kingdom of God, to join with the saints, to use the gifts planted in each of us to plunge into the mystery of Christ.
Advent is this invitation, and no Advent is like another. This Advent comes to us in a season of anxiety and scarcity, of cries for justice and equality, of disillusionment and uncertainty. After all the shouting and posturing, after all the broken dreams, we need this Advent. We feel our need, our hunger, and our arms stretch out for the renewing and healing power of God. “I am so done with the year 2011” said one man recently to me. Aren’t we done with living in the anxiety and smallness that the world presses upon us?
Advent comes like rain on the dry ground, like a cool breeze on a breathless hot day. And the time is now, the time is ripe for the taking. “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down” says the prophet. “We all fade like a leaf…” So many plans have been put into action, so many ideas have been tried out. Why not turn instead to the God who is always new, whose energy and Spirit can bring newness from what seems old and dried-out. “We are the clay, and you are the potter.” I used to like watching our ceramics teacher re-claim dried clay, clay so dry that it cracks if you try to use it and crumbles into dust in your hands. He would patiently knead it and work water into it inch by inch, tenderly massaging it until it was all moistened and could be returned into the live clay bucket. God can do the same to us, no matter how worn and dried and cracked we may be feeling.
We are that clay, and more. We “have been enriched by him, in speech and knowledge…we are not lacking in any spiritual gift” says our patron Saint Paul. If this Advent we are feeling impoverished and disabled as Christians, as a congregation, hear the Apostle’s words and take hope. We have everything we need, a mad rich trove of gifts and the animating Spirit of Jesus Christ to bring us to new and vibrant life. We speak about renewing our congregation. Renewal starts today. We embrace the fresh Spirit of God and this Advent invitation to plunge once more into the best adventure, the journey of the Gospel.
That is, if we choose the path offered us today.
My Uncle John to his dying day wondered what life would have been like if he’d gone to training camp with Babe Ruth and the rest of the Yankee line-up that Spring. For John, the invitation came once.
We are more blessed than Uncle John in that the invitation has come around again. But we must not presume on the graciousness of God and assume we can always jump on this bus. The invitation is urgent. Our own bodies and souls and a thirsty exhausted world cannot be kept waiting. Christ is not to be kept waiting. Take this Advent invitation to plunge once more into the heart of Gospel faith and of walking a Gospel path. God forbid that, like Uncle John, we wonder what it would have been like if we’d taken the invitation of God.