First Sunday in Advent
Reader: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness -- on them light has shined... For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:2, 6)
Reader: Today we remember the prophets of old, who demanded to be heard, who dared to speak of a child to come, unexpected liberator of the people, vulnerable incarnation of the Holiest of Holies, a new name for God.
People: Today we give thanks for the prophets among us, who bring to us surprising new visions of hope, who challenge us to think outside the box, who show us a future we never anticipated.
Reader: On this first Sunday of Advent, we light this candle as a symbol of the prophets who renew our faith and remind us of what may be.
(liturgy from UMC.org)
This liturgy speaks to energizing people out of their grief. It helps to renew our faith when grief feels like it may steal it. Finally after days of reflecting on grief about global poverty I am able reflect on hope over the same issue.
The beginnings of my reflections on hope came to me on the Monday after the first Sunday in Advent. I was at a clergy woman's gathering with our resident bishop for North Georgia United Methodists. Our new bishop is the first female bishop our conference has had. Her presence among clergy women is a hope for us as she helps us to see ministry through new eyes.
After spending the past few days meditating on poverty and brokenness, I was ready for something transformative. Our bishop told about her colleagues in Florida who were in ministry with Cuba. They noticed that the church in Cuba was thriving but when members immigrated to the U.S. their commitment and faith began to wane. This thought drove me to search for a symbol that not only represented hope for the poor but in ways that did not fix one problem in order to create another. Hope for the poor that also holds strong to faith.
As I walked around after our gathering I stopped at one of my favorite places in Georgia - the waterfall at Camp Glisson. This camp is known as "Holy Dirt" for its life changing camping ministries. I've taken students on many retreats there where they experienced God in powerful ways. It was near the base of the waterfall that I saw what I was looking for. It seemed appropriate - in the middle of a drought in Georgia to be near water, at a camp known for holiness, to find something to remind me of hope.
Tomorrow I will post the picture I took. Hope comes at times through new people telling new stories and at times through old locations. In either case it is there waiting for us to open our eyes and see it before us.
Until Everyone Hears,
(in full disclosure this is part of one of my doctoral classes but I thought it would be a helpful process so I decided to share it here as well)