St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Advent I 2017 Sermon
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Rev. Bonnie Campbell

HOPE. The Israelites and the Psalmist were begging God to come down and do something spectacular. Psalm 80:3 in The Message says, “God come back! Smile your blessing smile: That will be our salvation.”  That would really be great! And, yet, I believe God is already here as the One was already there-as Jung said, “Bidden or unbidden, God is here.”  And, WE are here, not just waiting but watching to see Christ.
 
And Paul gives hope to the church at Corinth: “Just think--you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all!  All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. … [he] will never give up on you.  Never forget that.”  Jesus told his followers to “Stay at your post. Keep watch.”
 
It’s a lot of hoping, waiting, wishing, and watching.  Wil Gafney relates it to today’s phrase, “Stay woke,” the mantra of the Black Lives Matter movement.  Stay woke is part of the lexicon of the African American Vernacular English and so many have taken up the phrase--either “Stay woke” or just, “Woke.”  Woke to environmental degradation, woke to greed all across our culture, woke to immigrant issues, woke to animal cruelty, woke to the Rohinga in Myanmar and the Palestinians in the Middle East, woke to workers’ wages, woke to the incarceration of brown and black and poor people and the list goes on and on.
 
Professor Gafney notes that “Stay woke” and “keep awake” may seem distinct from one another: one a focus on human failings and the other a focus on Jesus who redeems, restores, and reconciles.  There is a commonality: In neither is one only watching and waiting.  “Those who assert the value of black life [the value of the poor, the sick and the incarcerated], in the face of actions and policies that deny [their] value, //stay ‘woke’ to resist and counter the squandering of [those lives] and those who defend death-dealing policies.  Likewise, the call to “keep awake” is a call to actively prepare for the return of Jesus.”
 
Paul reminded the folks at the Corinthian church that they lived a life of grace-a gift from God.  And we, also, are graced with many gifts-this day, for one.  We could live as though those gifts were all that mattered-identify them and feel good about ourselves because we have them.  We could say we belong to Christ and revel in that fact.  Yet, there is work to be done with those gifts.  I met some awesome people on Thursday and Friday who are using their gifts in the church right now.  They want to be ordained AND they aren’t sitting back looking at their wonderful gifts, which are many, they are putting them to use for the good of the larger community.  And, not just within the church.  There is homeless ministry, music ministry, ministry to the dying, youth ministry, ministry to all kinds of marginalized people in all kinds of places--it was amazing to see and hear their stories!  I came home exhausted and blessed!  There were some woke folks there!
 
How do our lives affect the larger community?  How do we relate to one another and the world around us?  Are we woke to our impact?  Are we woke to how we use our gifts?  Are we ready to see Christ in the faces of those we meet?  Of those we don’t know?
 
The story Jesus told is about a slaveholder who expected his slaves to be ready when he returned--no matter the day or time of day.  Professor Gafney notes that part of staying woke is recognizing the use of slavery in the story and resisting the normalization of it in the text--even though they are Jesus’ words.
 
The sad thing is that the slaveholder seems to be analogous to Jesus in the parable.  Staying woke to the ugliness of that convergence and its impact on the history of the world [and our current times, sadly] means never minimizing slavery in any context. [end quote]
 
Stay woke to what is going on around us and keep awake for the face of Christ in those you meet.  Let’s keep feeding people, engaging people in conversation, and watching for Christ.  My hope is in the coming of Jesus and my life of grace is in knowing that God is always with us, right here and now. Stay woke!  Keep awake!



 
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