Buscando una posada with a God-in-Motion
2008-12-01 by Carmen Nanko-Fernández

Having spent years as a teacher in contexts ranging from high school classrooms to graduate seminars, I have acquired that extra sensory perception that evolves from grading batches of student papers in marathon sessions.  So it comes as no surprise that my antennae were activated by the readings from this Second Sunday of Advent.  To the untrained ear or eye, Mark 1:3 appears to parrot Isaiah 40:3, “in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,” so much so that too often generations of Christian interpreters succumbed to super-successionist theologies that subjugated Judaism to the status of a “replaced” faith tradition.  It is still too easy to fall prey to this temptation particularly during the Advent season.

A more careful read or accurate proclamation of our texts from Second Isaiah and Mark reveal that each author has a distinctive agenda and that punctuation really does matter. In Isaiah the lectionary passage reads,

A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (40:3). 

The focus is on place, not on the voice or on the one who cries out.  Second Isaiah reflects the imminent possibility of repatriation for a people who have been in exile for seventy years in an alien land. Though for the children who were born in exile, Babylon may well be the only home they have ever known. 

Preparation is required for a return home, and the poetic call to construct the highway is a reminder of that God who accompanies a people on the move, especially through those desolate places where survival depends upon God’s presence.  This is not their first wilderness experience, the reference to Exodus is implicit; and this diaspora like those before it, including the passage to Babylon, bears the marks of divine accompaniment, in other words, of a God-in-motion with a people on the move.

In the lectionary passage from Mark, as underscored by the punctuation changes, the focus shifts from place to person.  Combining Malachi 3:1 with Isaiah 40:3 the evangelist draws attention to the voice, to the herald.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight…'" (Mark 1:2-3)

This messenger is identified in v. 4 as John the baptizer who appeared in the wilderness proclaiming the preparation necessary to receive the one who is to come after him.  In other words receiving the one who signifies God’s reign among us begins with repentance for sins.  Heralds point away from themselves, as does Mark’s Baptizer, and ultimately they direct our attention to the message sender, in this case, the God who accompanies, especially in the wilderness. 

Situating these texts in the Advent season invites contemporary communities to reflect on the preparation necessary to receive the God who makes lodging with us, the Incarnate Word we encounter each day in our neighbors, in those to whom we are kin and in those to whom we are stranger.  These texts, as well as this liturgical season, also challenge us to consider this preparation from the perspective of a people on the move. 

Diaspora theologies, in particular as they have been developed over the last couple of decades by US Latino and Latina biblical scholars and theologians, offer helpful insights.  These theologies arise from daily lived experience and popular expressions of faith and among their sources for reflection are experiences of dislocation and migration.

Poised at the intersection of these migratory experiences and popular religious practice is the centuries old Advent tradition of Las Posadas.  Primarily celebrated in Mexican cultural contexts, Las Posadas occur over nine days from 16 -24 December. Each night the journey of the pregnant Mary and her husband Joseph are re-enacted as participants knock upon their neighbors’ doors in search of lodging (una posada) for the family.  After a series of rejections, the final stop of the nightly pilgrimage concludes with an invitation to the holy pilgrims to enter and receive modest shelter not only in the home but in the heart: “Entren, Santos Peregrinos, reciban este rincón, que aunque es pobre la morada,os la doy de corazón.” This acceptance is celebrated with a nightly fiesta at the final home where the Word made Flesh finds lodging.

In this embodied theological reflection, our texts are interpreted and re-interpreted, during the last days of Advent, within the concrete lives of communities preparing themselves anew for the ongoing responsibility of recognizing God in the encounters of our daily relationships.  This ritualized migration points to the presence of God, throughout the journey to find a place to lodge, in the company of the neighbor/participants who herald the Holy Family’s arrival in a song of petition at each door, and in the home the Incarnate Word makes among us.  In the search for lodging, a people on the move reaffirms that the God-in-motion is already with us.





Our guest preaching blogger this week is
2008-11-30 by CJ Teets

Carmen Nanko-Fernández, assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago where she teaches courses in US Hispanic and pastoral theologies. She is the President of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States.  Some of her publications are accessible online at the electronic Journal of Hispanic/Latino Theology.



Thank you and the Second Coming
2008-11-28 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to guest blogger Kristin Johnston Largen (from my alma mater Gettysburg Seminary) and to Stephen Schuette for his contributions. Please scroll down to read their posts.

I have posted my sermon for this Sunday at the Sermon Feedback Cafe. A great challenge with preaching about the Second Coming is helping people not to see it as terrifying while also not watering down that great event. Largen and Schuette provide assistance for preachers regarding this goal, and I pray my sermon succeeds along these lines, as well. Let me know what you think, for I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





Rooms at Emory for the Festival of Homiletics
2008-11-26 by CJ Teets

We just set up a block of dorm rooms at Emory University for the Festival of Homiletics.

The program will begin on Monday at the fabulous Fox Theatre.

 





Revolutionary Patience
2008-11-25 by Stephen Schuette

The challenge of preaching on this text from Mark is to stay on edge without falling off one way or another.  There are a couple of polar-tensions evident in it, but the one that draws my attention is waiting--expectation, or a kind of active-waiting.

Or how about Ched Myers phrase “Revolutionary Patience” (See Binding the Strong Man)?  Normally we think of a revolutionary as impatient, anxious to bring about change.  And we typically think of patience as nurtured by a sense of contentment or at least an accommodation to things as they are.  But what if we blew open these assumptions and put them together?

Could it be that amid cosmic (or economic?) changes that shake heaven and earth (if Chicken Little is right) there is a possibility of remaining spiritually calm?  Could it be that in waiting which goes on and on there can remain an edge to it that anticipates already that which is yet to arrive?

I do feel a judgment about ministry here.  Have I backed away from offering a word that would invite a reconsideration of life/priorities in favor of the calm, reassuring, safe response?  Have I been unsettled by questions and issues in the church that in the end don’t amount to a hill of beans?  If Advent is a time for confession then I confess.  I’m often exercised without an inner calmness with the result of being unfocused in my calling and I’m often calm because I’ve let go of any sense of expectation and fallen asleep at the helm.

Part of Mark’s message seems to me to be an invitation to wholeness both in ourselves spiritually and in relationship to God.

The Visitor might be a suitable movie reference…a man going through the motions who wakes up to life and relationships anew.



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