Beloved St. John’s community,
In our former backyard was a pear tree, and in good years there would be a huge crop of pears slowly ripening on the branches. I would check them regularly. You knew they were ready when they came right off in your hand: one little push or nudge and they came loose. Before then, you could pull hard and they would hang on ferociously. They just weren’t ready.
This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the church year, which is all about “preparing the way of the Lord.” It’s about hopeful longing and waiting. It’s about John the Baptist, but not yet Jesus; Mary who is pregnant but who has not yet given birth to the Christ child. It’s about longing for the kingdom or kin-dom of God where Beloved Community takes full expression in human and more-than-human relationships, on this fragile earth we call home.
Advent is a time when we can cultivate our own inner spaces and lives so that we in effect “ripen”. So that are ready to follow the call of God when it comes. So that we recognize Jesus when he shows up in one of his distressing disguises in the poor and the imprisoned and the oppressed. Today also happens to be the feast of St. Andrew, brother to the much more famous Simon Peter. The scripture for today describes Jesus walking along the Sea of Galilee, and coming across Simon Peter and Andrew, mending their nets. Jesus calls them and they immediately leave everything and follow him. Why? They must have been ripe. Life must have prepared them for this moment. God’s Spirit working within them must have readied them to answer the call when it came.
One of the scriptures for St. Andrew’s feast day is Deuteronomy 30:11-14:
Moses said to the people of Israel, “Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.”
The presence and power of God are not far away or impossibly distant. God is closer to you than your own breath, than your own name. God is within you as the most intimate presence imaginable, loving you, seeing you, seeking to heal and guide you.
Advent is about beginning again, always. It is about cultivating a continual inner posture of listening to the presence of God, being softened and shaped by that presence, which is about preparing for the coming of Christ, preparing for the call of God. Although we like to think that we have all the time in the world to do the work God gives us to do in this world, we don’t. There are some opportunities that come that we must be ready for: if we miss them, they pass us by. Advent is about the deep spiritual discipline of learning to recognize God’s call when it comes, by listening every day.
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing right now, I invite you to take one single minute, a full 60 seconds, and just stop. Connect with God as you understand God. Perhaps you might seek to open your heart. And then pay attention to what is actually before you that is important. If embodying love were the only priority in your life, what would you do next?
Let us all prepare for the presence and call of God. May you have a blessed and miraculous advent.
In Christ’s love,