Hope for a World,

Our Advent theme, “Hope for a World,” came from a place of distress about the terrible violence and disparity in today’s world. Maybe it has always been like this, but many of us feel the pain of people suffering from hunger and poverty, the effects of racism, gun violence, and homelessness. Thus the themes for each Sunday:

Hope for a World … Where No One Hungers
Hope for a World … Where Black Lives Matter
Hope for a World … Without Gun Violence
Hope for a World … Where No One is Homeless

These issues don’t come without controversy. There are many viewpoints we hold dear about each of these justice issues. Our opinions have been forged from our life experience, our social location, and by what we see, read, and hear.

I grew up in Montana which shielded me from most of life’s injustices; certainly not all. My ‘social location’ was/is: white/Euro American, upper middle class, female. The world was generally a fine and wonderful place until my eyes were opened in seminary [of all places.] It was in seminary [2006] that I first heard the words ‘white privilege.’ It was also in seminary that I learned one role of the pastor is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” The second part of this role continues to challenge me. Being a prophetic preacher comes with a cost – some of you will undoubtedly be unhappy, others will cheer. Ideally, you’ll be in both of those categories at some point.

The ancient prophets and Jesus, no less, shared the word of God to their people. These words were not always (seldom) comfortable because it appears that God thinks we can do better, be better people. The teachings of Jesus use the circumstances and settings of his ancient world to speak hard truths that still, miraculously, apply to us. Many of these teachings sting my sense of self. They challenge me to take a closer look and to consider another way. Sometimes there is sarcasm in my voice when I pray, ‘thank you, God.’ Sometimes between clinched teeth, I think, ‘dang it, I’m not prepared to change my mind about that.’

God is in the heart-transplant business. Complete with cracked-open ribs and recycled blood, the transformation of our lives is the work of God in the world. Thank heavens we don’t have to do this ‘surgery’ by ourselves. Thanks be to God that our church community will stand together even when we disagree so that somehow we can co-create a world that God still loves.

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