As I write this in early November, with winter already here in Winnipeg, I wonder what December and Advent will bring.
I walk down to the Red River daily to watch the slow mystery of ice forming. I contemplate this silent eternal beauty of the river, but at the same time, I’m wary of the dangerous ice on the sidewalk beneath my feet! The snow is fresh and inviting now, but by December I may be longing for spring already. We enter now a season of growing darkness, and Advent pushes us into winter stillness, to consider our longings, to lift our eyes to the horizons of God’s vision, God’s own longing for Jesus’ promised reign of peace.
What are we waiting for? Inner peace? An end to poverty? I have been waiting my whole life for a lasting peace with justice in Israel and Palestine. I grow weary. I am waiting for healing for my daughter. I am waiting for a better exercise routine. (Yes, I’m aware there are very different levels here of what I can do toward these hopes!) In Hebrew, “waiting” and “hope” are the same word. I know I’ve said this before, but it fascinates me, as we are called to be people of hope, therefore people of waiting. I am grateful there is a season of the Church year to keep us aware that “waiting” is a spiritual practice, an ongoing part of Christian discipleship and Christian community. Not one season of waiting for Christmas, but a life-long process of tending to God’s actions in our lives and in the world. I think that is why our first baptismal vow is “to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers,” communal listening to God in sacrament and bible and prayer. All of our other vows, our actions, arise from this waiting on God, all as a response to God’s action.
You will see in this issue of The HighWay that Andrew Stephens-Rennie, Director of Mission Renewal for the Diocese of Kootenay, has referred to a book “When Church Stops Working: A future for your Congregation beyond More Money, Programs, and Innovation,” by Andrew Root and Blair D. Bertrand. I have found it provocative reading. It is a call to the whole church to wait on God. To stop working and listen to God! Waiting is not a passive doing nothing (that scares us so much!) but an alert, awake, attending to what God is up to. Waiting on God is necessary in following God’s agenda rather than our own, as often our agenda is driven by fear, anxiety, and a need for success, which is our addiction to control or busyness. I appreciate that Root and Bertrand explore this as personal and communal call, discernment.
I also appreciate the authors’ honestly in awe of the mysterious otherness of God. The disturbing scriptures for Advent illustrate this awareness that we cannot control God’s timing or anticipate how God will show up in our lives! As C. S. Lewis says in Narnia, “Aslan is not a tame lion!”
I think the insights in this book are worth our attention so I am using a book fund (set up in the diocese decades ago) to send a copy to each worshipping community to read and share amongst leadership. Andrew and I will be leading a zoom book study during Epiphany season. I invite you to form a group in your parish to do this study together. There will be two groups, either Monday evenings from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. Pacific Time. The dates are Jan. 8, 15, 22, 29 and Feb 5. OR Wednesday morning 9:30 to 11:00 Pacific time on Jan. 10, 17, 24, 31 and Feb. 7. Registration email: [email protected]
I hope to see you on Zoom!
I pray that this Advent season will allow you space to contemplate anew the mystery of God’s love as it intersects with this particular moment in your own life.
Peace be with you.