“Be Yourself, Change the World”

Second Sunday of Advent (2C)
December 9, 2018 – “Be Yourself, Change the World”
c.the Rev. Dr.  Mary Foulke

Good morning St. Mary’s! Today I want to explore our Gospel with some imagination and connection to our current time:

In the second year of the presidency of Donald Trump, while Andrew Cuomo was governor of the state of New York, and Bill DiBlasio the mayor of New York City, and while Andrew Dietsche was the Bishop of the Diocese of New York, the word of God came to those gathered at St. Mary’s in Harlem, and to those beyond the walls walking down the block or sitting in their apartment or sleeping on the street. The word of God came not to the powers that be, but to the ones in the wilderness. Then they went into all the region from the Hudson to the Harlem River, proclaiming the love of God for each person just for who they are, calling them to turn away from trying to be like anyone else, to give up trying to hide any part of themselves, for the love of God is for our unique dignity as human beings, and should not be hidden nor distorted….

as it is written in the words of the prophet Isaiah:

The voice of one, crying out in the wilderness of poverty, of bigotry and oppression, the voice crying out: 

Prepare the way of the Lord, make God’s way clear.

Every valley shall be filled, every loss comforted, every violation repaired. And every mountain and hill shall be made low, every imagined superiority and every alleged inferiority shall be restored to equality and justice. Everywhere that belonging is severed, there shall be connection, and every place where there is hostility, peace… the rough ways shall be made smooth. And, all flesh: all flesh, young and old, diseased and healthy, of every hue, scarred by the traumas and the joys of life, fit and flabby, aching and energetic, cacophonous and quiet, all flesh shall see the salvation of God, our one God, imaged in each multifaceted human, the whole creation shall see the power and joy and harmony of the divine.

This is the imagination of Isaiah, of Luke, of John the Baptist, and then …me. Repentance is that call to imagine a better world, not to become resigned to things as they are. Preparing the way for salvation is the way, the place, the community where everyone can be themselves. When I worked at a school we would always have a John the Baptist chapel service where we talked about how weird John was, how people maybe talked about him, and how he wasn’t afraid to live into that weirdness, to be all of who he was, all of who God made him to be. One year, each child (who wanted it) got a locust stamped on the back of their hand to remind them of how it can help change the whole world when they can be themselves, even (or especially) if someone else thinks their weird. When we are ourselves, we make it more possible for the next person, and we free God’s image again and again. You are not better than. You are not less than. And when you find yourself in whatever wilderness, that is when God comes to you, that is when you begin to understand your purpose, your mission to proclaim that extraordinary love for your whole body/mind/spirit, to other body/mind/spirits.

On Friday, Janet and I went to a memorial service for Kagendo Murungi. Kagendo was the Director of St. Mary’s Food Programs for a little over a year, she was devoted to the program, and at the memorial we learned about so much more. She was a human rights activist, for example – organizing LGBTQ people in the shanty towns of South Africa and bringing them to a mostly white, male LGBT conference. She was an artist, a writer and filmmaker whose courageous self-expression put her own life in danger. She was a fierce friend, a Kenyan pan-africanist, a radical lesbian feminist who was full of joy and life, even – as her brothers told us – even in the last days of her life though she also looked tired and ill. She brought all of herself to her work and her relationships, her art and her fun; and she encouraged and worked so that others could and would do the same. She is an example to each of us, of how the Spirit can inhabit our minds and bodies, making us brave and creative and loving, inspiring us to make the world different.

In this, the second year of the presidency of Donald Trump, while Andrew Cuomo was govenor of the state of New York, and Bill DiBlasio the mayor of New York City, and while Andrew Dietsche was the Bishop of the Diocese of New York, the word of God is coming to us, in whatever wilderness, God is coming to us to rouse our imagination for a better world (to preach repentance), to inspire our courage to be ourselves (to prepare the way for our salvation). Be ready, this is the Advent message. Be ready for the whole creation to experience the power and joy and harmony of the divine. Amen.

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