A new church year begins this Sunday as we begin the season of Advent. It is a time where the people who are sitting in great darkness will begin to see the growing light each week with another candle lit on the Advent wreath, a symbol of the light Christians anticipate seeing return to the world.
Now would be a great time for there to be more light in the world!
This has been a particularly difficult time for many in the United States, and especially here in Leon County, Florida. The country has been tuned into the Ferguson case. And as things were exploding and protests were occurring all over the country in response to the non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson, people in Tallahassee were lining the streets, in the rain, to pay respects to deputy Christopher Smith who, a week ago, was ambushed by a white man with a gun and anti-government streak. The gunman set fire to his house to lure the police and firefighters to the scene. Deputy Smith was the first to arrive, and he was the only one Curtis Wade Holley was able to shoot and kill before another off-duty cop, who lived in the neighborhood, responded and fatally shot him. All this after there had been a shooting at the library on FSU's campus only a few days earlier where a graduate of FSU, with a history of growing delusions and mental illness, shot three people and fired at the police when they ordered him to drop his gun. Six police officers vs. one guy with a gun. You know who lost that battle.
So much violence. So many shots fired. So little of what we might call justice in the world. It certainly all seems to fit in with the themes that emerge at the end of a church year. The daily office readings, and the Sunday lectionary, often reflect a sense of things falling apart, the eschaton or End Times. For some, the events in Tallahassee have made them cautious about saying what they feel about how things went this week in Ferguson. I can understand the reticence. Nobody here wants to appear to be trashing law enforcement when they've just been through more hell than usual in our relatively small city. But, as with so many things in life, this isn't a question of either/or; it's more a both/and. And so, I don't see raising questions about the Ferguson case as being a put down to law enforcement in Tallahassee or Leon County. And I think it is time, more than time, for people to recognize, and to listen to the cry of our black brothers and sisters and other people of color who do not feel they stand on equal ground. Can we have an honest conversation and open our ears and listen to each other? We must do this. People of color must express themselves without fear and that includes the people of my color, too. Those who are the peace makers, we have to make a commitment to work to change the system...even if that change isn't something we'll enjoy seeing in our lifetime. But we owe that to the generations of children that are growing up quickly. And it's the perfect discipline to begin for Advent.
If Advent is, at least for us Christians, the preparation for the dawning of a new day and the return of Christ into our world, then isn't Advent the time for us to see the brokenness that is in our world, and connect with others to change it? I'm talking about race relations, which will be the topic in some of the major cathedrals throughout the Episcopal Church in the United States this Advent. And that is a desperately important topic in all cities and towns in this country. Perhaps this division between people of color and whites is contributing to poverty. Maybe it is at play in child abduction and human trafficking. Maybe it is simply the starting point of a broader discussion about the many ways we have managed to break down our worldviews into a series of "us" vs. "them" arguments that go nowhere but toward more sin, or breaking from God.
Scripture indicates that God's dream for us is that we live as one with all that is One. How would it look if we could really function and live as if we are truly connected to one another and all those connections lead us to the Source that is Love? Crazy and radical as this may sound to some, I really believe that we are supposed to be living as one human race... made up of a canopy of lots of "otherness"... but at the end time of it all... we are really supposed to live as though each and every person we encounter is our brother and sister... and we are stewards, or caretakers, of all creatures great and small.
Maybe for this Advent the challenge put before us is to see brokenness as the darkness that needs our light and for us to be willing to bring our lights out of the safety of our own homes and into those places that need more light so they can see their way out of the darkness.
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of
darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of
this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit
us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come
again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the
dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and
for ever. Amen.