Saturday, November 27, 2010

Advent and Petra

"Let us kneel before the LORD who made us. For he is our God, and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides."
Psalm 95: 6-7

Struggling with the mystery of Bethlehem on her pilgrimage there, Layla Karst wrote: “Perhaps the real difficulty isn’t that God can be born, but that God can die.” She raises the question of Holy Saturday, when the bleak sight on the horizon reveals that the crosses remain standing. The night has not removed yesterday's torture.

Advent, the perennial winter flower, blooms from the fallow seeds of our reck and bleary summers.

From deferred dreams and inconvenient truths, we look to, ask of, and pray for what has been abandoned.

In advent, we admit as one people that without God's guidance we stray, confessing with sorrow the exile in which we find ourselves.

I don't know about you friend, but I miss the garden of Eve and Adam. Eden must have been that place where no bird freezes.

Eden must have been that place where no bird sung, whose cry I

could not understand. That place where every joy was sung, bird and I singing as one.

I have lost that language, my mind dulled by so-called "necessities" of life. My politics, once a polyphany, now huddle into a single tongue.

But dimly I have known a remnant eden and advent reconciles me within the memory of that time when I spoke with other tongues, dreaming in other lands.

So I came anew to words I wrote, these after visiting ancient Petra:

"The desert plateau looked like an altar of desecration. On it lay a melted body bag abandoned to the vultures. We trod toward it through the white-hot sand, aiming first for the freakish presence of a giant shrub. I was wrong, according to the guidebook and the signs pointing to the tent tarp suspended over a pile of rubble; it was the remains of a Byzantine church. This could only make sense as I gathered my

wits again in the shade tendered by the shrub’s gnarled branches. But it was a tree actually, and looking at the wrinkled face of the Bedouin sheik, who sat ceremoniously for photographs beneath the sign’s official pronouncement, I could believe Jordan’s oldest

tree really was nearly five hundred years old. But I blinked for a long time at the inscription I discovered inside the church:

“In 1993, a cache of 152 papyrus scrolls was found in a room adjacent to the church. They had been carbonized in the fire and that is what preserved them.”

Throughout the season of Advent, in the fires of worldly concern, it will be our communion that preserves hope in the world. By human bonds of love will we resist the entanglements that destroy. Pathways do exist in the trails made by saints, so that even though we appear to wander in deserts, we trust God leads us to the everlasting oasis. Amen.

For reflection:
As the Kin_dom nears, what areas of our lives do we yearn to stand "first" in line?
Even in our thirst for justice, where is the Eden we have wandered from and to revisit that place, how can we abnegate our place in line?
We let others drink from our own wells, how will we let God refill them during this season of Advent?

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