a welcoming, affirming, justice-seeking congregation

November 27, 2011Advent One


by Nancy Sanders

We human beings are funny creatures,

spiritually speaking.

We want revelation,

but we want it on our terms.

We want mystery in our world,

but we like our mystery manageable.

In fact, of late, the kind of mystery

to which were most attracted

and most attentive is the mystery

thats of our own creating.

Its technology to which we address

the kind of religious superlatives

that used to be reserved

for The Truly Holy

technology thats described

as awesome, amazing, astounding,

miraculous, startling and wondrous.

Our newest prophets are the wizards

who can imagine a world transformed

by technological innovation,

and provide us with the tools

for assembling that world.

The top-selling book on the market

this pre-Christmas season

is the biography

of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs,

who was an innovator

in the world of technology,

conceiving of a kind of Zen-like,

seamless integration of technology

with the rest of our lives,

and a kind of aesthetic

or principle of simplicity and beauty

in technology that draws us all in,

whether or not were Apple users,

and that truly is beautiful,

in the same sort of seductive way

in which we can imagine

the golden calf was beautiful

beautiful, and innovative, and,

in its hidden complexities, mysterious.

The downsides to this kind

of technological development are,

of course, myriad,

but its the Steve Jobs of our world

who are lauded as our visionaries

our prophets.

(And, guaranteed,

Steve Jobs disciples everywhere

would jump on me even for saying,

the Steve Jobs of this world,

because it assumes there are more

where he came from,

and, they would say, he was unique,

and there is no one as great as he,

and there may never be.

He was world-changing,

world-creating, and in his legacy,

he is immortal.)

The aestheticand even the religion

of the perfect technology,

unfolding in ways

that formerly were unimaginable to us,

seems to be mystery enough

for most of us in this world.

We can make magic happen,

technologically speaking.

The line between reality

and special effects is blurring,

and we even have a name for it:

virtual reality.

Truly we do

like our mystery manageable,

contained within the bounds

of human imagination,

broad though we may be discovering

those bounds to be.

Virtual mystery.

Close enough to the real thing,

for most of us who have access

to the secrets of this new universe

that has been created for us.

No wonder those of us who gather

in little churches and in mostly-empty cavernous cathedrals

to enter into the mystery of Advent

are seen as a bit quaint,

and more than a bit naïve,

and, the harsh truth be told, obsolete.

While were in here, contemplating

the coming of Mystery into our lives

at Christmas time,

virtual mystery is out there

flogging its wares

on Black Friday weekend,

and, for the vast majority,

successfully claiming a monopoly

on the peoples wonder.

Thats why we who do gather here,

awaiting the coming into our lives

of the kind of mystery

that cannot be managed,

the kind of revelation

that enters our world

on its own terms,

wild and unfettered and free,

defying all attempts at description

never mind domestication

holy and awe-inspiring

in a way that makes shepherds

fall on their faces in fear

and causes magi to journey

far, far from homethats why we

who gather here must do so

with a kind of boldness of heart

a kind of spiritual audacity

that insists that the sleek kind

of manufactured mystery

that the world offers us

is not close enough,

that it will not receive our loyalty

or be the object of our worship

or fool us into thinking

that its ultimate or holy

a kind of spiritual audacity

that is fully persuaded

that when it comes to Mystery

there is no close enough.

Against the grain of the world, then,

we gather today.

There were no Black Friday lineups

at our door this morning.

Just a ragtag bunch of seekers

in blue jeans and Blue Bomber jerseys

and Sunday-go-to-meetin duds,

picking their way across the ice

and holding the door for each other

so they could come in together

and begin an Advent journey

into the unknown,

starting with an affirmation

of the Mystery that does, and will,

infiltrate our reality,

that does, and will, call to us

to notice its coming,

that does, and will, promise us

the only kind of transformation

that is real, and can be trusted,

the only kind of transformation

that has the power

actually to save.

And so, here we are:

quaint, naïve, obsolete,

but bold and audacious enough to say

that were seeking The Holy,

this Adventwere seeking Mystery

and we wont settle for close enough.

Were looking for the real thing.

And in the real thing

we will put every last scrap of our faith.

Were looking for the real thing,

and so, in a few minutes, well gather

around that quaint, naïve, obsolete

table over there,

and break bread and lift a cup

and take on holy nourishment

to sustain us on our way,

and, strengthened by that food,

well begin our journey

into the unknown.

May Mystery meet us on the road,

and change us entirely.

Thanks be to God. Amen.