Advent 1 Year C

Future Oriented, by Tom Mundahl

Excerpt: The reality of living in a new climate regime (labeled “anthropocene” by Earth systems scientists) intensifies our stance toward the future. Because of the Earth’s response to human release of greenhouse gases, we are learning that “in the anthropocene we may say that the present is drenched with the future…the unsettling presence of things to come” (Clive Hamilton, Defiant Earth, Cambridge: Polity, 2017, p. 132). To double down on this, Bruno Latour suggests, “we have to position ourselves as though we were at the end of time” (Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climate Regime, Cambridge: Polity, 2017, p. 213).
Perhaps we can slacken the tension by taking a biblical cue offered by Latour. It comes from Paul’s advice to the Corinthian community: “Those who mourn should live as if they did not; those who are happy as if they were not; those who buy something as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor. 7: 30-31, Latour). Not only does this orient us toward the future, but it reminds us that the end/purpose of our lives is to be about the down-to-earth task of worship, learning, and serving one another and the whole creation in expectation of renewal.

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What lies ahead, by The Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas

Excerpt: Advent invites us to ask big questions about what lies ahead.  How do I view the future? What do I dare to hope for?  What is my final destiny as an individual person?  And what about the final destiny of the world?  The destiny of the whole cosmos?  Where are we headed?  Will human history come to an end, and if so, when and how?  And what is the best way for us to live in the meantime?  These are the kinds of questions that Advent sets before us, questions we may not often ask ourselves.  But how we answer them will deeply affect the way in which we go about our daily lives, and whether or not we live with a sense of purpose and hope.
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There will be signs, by Leah D. Schade


Those churches following the Revised Common Lectionary hear words of foreboding from the Gospel of Luke 21:25-36:

25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

What an eerie coincidence that this is the text for Sunday.  The 6th great extinction, the growing “garbage patch” in our oceans, the massive die-off of coral reefs, water pollution, along with the increasing frequency of catastrophic weather events such as droughts, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, and wildfires, are all “signs” of the eco-crucifixion, the travail described in Luke’s gospel.  Scientists are now debating how long the planet will remain habitable for human beings. 300 years?  100?  50?  The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that humanity has just over ten years to get global warming under control before the cascade of catastrophic impacts overwhelms our capacity to adapt.[1]

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Put on notice, by Dennis Ormseth


We are thus once again put on notice that Christ’s coming into our world entails a radical reversal of the fortunes of the unjust powers that dominate human history, so that God’s intention with the creation might at the last be completely fulfilled. People of faith will be oriented anew to the cosmos of which we are members as the creation of God that moves toward completion and even perfection, not on the basis of its own inherent powers, but by virtue of the will of its creator. At the same time, however,  it is important to notice that the narrative of the lectionary in Year C opens up to a scene that invites consideration, truly for the first time in human history, of a global experience of crisis in which all the nations are called to judgement without exception (Cf. James Gusave Speth’s argument in his Red Sky at Morning:  America and the Crisis of the Global Environment. 

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Social Justice is Central in Luke, by John G. Gibbs, PhD

So far as gospels are concerned, Year C will be the year of Luke. On the first Sunday of Advent it is appropriate to survey the two-volume work of this author who both wrote a gospel and constructed the first chapter in Church history (Acts).

Some characteristics of Luke stand out. First, prominent in his theology and Christology is social justice. For instance, though all three synoptic gospels include Jesus’ rejection at his hometown, only Luke quotes the texts in Trito-Isaiah (Is. 61:1-2; 58:6) that Jesus read in the synagogue on that occasion. Jesus’ comments on the text, as relayed by Luke, emphasized God’s saving acts outside Israel in Sidon and Syria, and by implication attacked the provincial nationalism of the congregation. He did so with such effectiveness that “all in the synagogue were filled with rage” so that they took Jesus to the top of a cliff from which they had expected to hurl him down to death. (Jesus announces the universalization of the gospel, but we hear an off-stage trumpet of crucifying doom.)

Luke thereby showed the deep roots of Jesus’ public ministry in prophetic emphasis on righteousness within the public realm. Social justice is a pre-eminent theme also in ecological consciousness, for it includes commitment to Eco-Justice, which explores connections between ecology and economics, between the creation around us and the fiscal intentions within and among us.

There are other characteristics in Luke’s work: his interest in medical terms (leading to the description “Luke the physician”), in geographical matters as exhibited in his extensive use over land and sea of the journey motif (not only in Acts, but also in Jesus “setting his face toward Jerusalem” at Luke 9:51-19:27), his interest also in relations between rich and poor.
The section 21:25-31 adds another Lukan characteristic. There are various apocalyptic “signs” of redemption coming. Here is Luke’s eschatological emphasis. For our laity the term “eschatology” may amount to a technical term. In this technological era, however, we should not retreat from the use of precise language. Laity deal with technical terms as a matter of course, thereby demonstrating their capacity to understand and use them. Why expect a faith rooted in at least 3 millenia of continuous community not to have its own special vocabulary?

For Luke the goals set before the Church (the community called out in order to be sent into the world) exercise powerful influence on daily life here and now. That’s eschatology (study of the “eschaton,” the end-time goal). There may be fear and foreboding, along with the powers of the heavens being shaken. But Luke looks beyond those portents to the “power and glory” of the coming “Son of Man” (another technical term). When those “signifying” events come, it will be a time of great expectation and hope. At that moment “stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Another technical term is “redemption” (apolutrosis), a word that signified the buying back of a captive or slave by paying a ransom (lutron). The advent of our release into the freedom of God’s own people is what Luke proclaims here.