Transcribed from the audio.
Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free. From our fears and sins release us. Let us find our rest in Thee. In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
In the words of Frederick Buechner, “No matter how much the world shatters us to pieces, we carry inside us a vision of wholeness that we sense is our true home and it beckons us.” As we look across the landscape of this country and around the world, we certainly have a sense of those things that shatter us to pieces. Three short weeks ago, when I last preached, I did so after the massacre in Paris. And today, I stand before you as we all struggle with the senseless shooting in San Bernardino. In the season of Advent, it seems to me, that there is an urgent longing for that sense of wholeness that we know to be our true home. St. Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
How do we, in these troubled times, find that wholeness, that rest? I would submit to you that it is only with intention that we seek and feel the presence of the One who came into this world, the light which the darkness could not overcome. We know from John’s prologue that the light came into the world and the darkness did not overcome it. It cannot overcome it. It will not ever overcome it. So in this season of Advent, when we’re called to watch and wait and hope in expectation for the coming of Christ, we are called with intention to go there first.
You all know the things, the places, the prayers that take you into the presence of God. In my own life, I know that that time for me of my greatest rest and grounding and strength and comfort, particularly in troubled times, comes very early in the morning. When I am at my best, I don’t reach first for my iPhone, iPad, or remote control. I do get a cup of coffee—that always helps. But I sit in silence, trying to live in to “be still and know that I am God.” We don’t have to look hard for the things that would seek to make us terrified. There is some truth to the notion that we see the things that we are looking for. If you are looking for things to terrify you, you don’t have to look very hard or very far. But look for the light, the light in our lives for which the darkness of our world cannot overcome it. Our waiting and watching is not necessarily meant to be passive. Jesus called his disciples. Jesus calls us to follow the light, not just with our vision and our prayers, but with our action, too.
Three years ago, from this very pulpit, almost to the day, after the shootings at Sandy Hook, our Dean stood here and proclaimed, “Enough is enough.” Surely, this is the time for people of goodwill and faith to unite and to advocate for common sense gun legislation. Enough is enough! At that time our Dean took a leading role in saying that this Cathedral would partner with others and not lose sight of our mission and our purpose to follow the Prince of Peace. If you would like to join with us there are many ways in which you can do that. We have partnered with groups like Faith United. There is a gun violence prevention Sabbath weekend coming up. Go on the website, partner with us, by your voice and your vote.
This is also a time, it seems to me, when our work in interfaith relations is urgent. The Cathedral has a long history of respect and reconciliation on those issues and, even today, in our Cathedral we are blessed to have Canon John Peterson who has led our work with the Christian-Muslim Summits with us. Learn more about how you can be involved in our interfaith work. This is a time, particularly, to reach out to our Muslim brothers and sisters and to not fall prey to the fear mongers in our midst. Scripture tells us that perfect love casts out fear. The Prince of Peace showed us another way. There are lights amidst this community and all communities seeking to faithfully follow the light that came into the world.
If you sense that God is calling you to respond, look for the light and be a part of it. This summer, my husband and I were privileged to see such a community of faith. St. Paul’s Within the Walls in Rome has a refugee center that welcomes daily over 200 refugees from Afghanistan and Syria and war-torn areas; offers them breakfast, respect, and dignity and life for many who feel that they have no life—given what they have been through and what they have left. They not only provide the basic nurture of life, but tangible things like helping them with documents that will ensure their ability to receive work; counseling that’s desperately needed; but most importantly standing firm to be the light, the life, and the love of Christ that casts out all fear.
In my home state of Texas, in McAllen, Texas, there is a brave woman by the name of Sister Norma who, when she began to see the influx of immigrants from Mexico and Central America who were desperately alone and afraid with nowhere to go, called Father Tom of Sacred Heart Catholic Church and asked if she could borrow his parish hall for two days. Well, a year and a half later, some 20,000 immigrants have seen and received that light of Christ. All the faith communities in McAllen, Texas, have come together to show a better way, a different way, to make our paths straight, as John the Baptist proclaimed that we should and as Jesus beckons us to do.
This is the time, my friends, to ground ourselves in that vision of wholeness, to rest in the one who brings us uniquely peace and comfort and support and strength and purpose and meaning in our lives. “No matter how much the world shatters us to pieces, we carry a vision of wholeness that we know is our true home and it beckons us.”
Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free. From our fears and sins release us. Let us find our rest in Thee. Amen.