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Breath of the Spirit

Pastoral, Liturgical, Teaching, and Social Justice Moments brought to you by DignityUSA.

Breath of the Spirit is our electronic spiritual and liturgical resource for our members and potential members. Nothing can replace your chapter or other faith community but we hope you will find further support here for integrating your spirituality with your sexuality and all the strands of your life.

Only when people become more important than institutions, more valuable than rules and regulations will we even notice God’s presence in all we encounter and in all we do.

DECEMBER 14, 2014: THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Readings:

Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11
I Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

One of the reasons John originally composed his gospel was to demonstrate the superiority of Christianity over Judaism. If he had music playing in the background as he wrote, it probably would be that well-known song from Annie Get Your Gun: Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better. As we hear in today’s gospel pericope, he states his thesis in his very first chapter.

John the Baptizer is John the Evangelist’s spokesperson. Though sent from God, this wilderness prophet isn’t the light people were expecting. He’s simply on the scene “to testify to the light.” Neither is he the Messiah. He’s just “the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.” Even when it comes to his trademark baptism, he’s convinced there’s a better baptism around the corner.

That logically leads us to the question of the day: how is Christianity superior to Judaism?

It’s essential to remember that Jesus’ original followers committed themselves to imitating his death and resurrection not because they wanted to get into heaven – the rich young man narrative in Mark 10 teaches that they could have accomplished that feat by just keeping the commandments – but because they experienced a more meaningful and fulfilling life by becoming other Christs.

This Galilean carpenter had discovered that the most important element in achieving a meaningful and fulfilling life was the ability to surface the kingdom of God permeating all we do. He not only believed that God’s working effectively in our daily lives, but he also was convinced that if we rearrange our value system, we can actually experience God’s presence. He didn’t proclaim this kind of repentance for repentance sake, but because it was the only way to become part of God’s kingdom. Only when people become more important than institutions, more valuable than rules and regulations will we even notice God’s presence in all we encounter and in all we do.

Paul’s community in Thessalonica has already traveled a long way down the road that leads to that goal. We presume they’re praying without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances, rejoicing in the Spirit’s gifts, and listening to the prophets in their midst. Day by day they’re becoming more holy – more “other.” They stand in contrast to others around them, to those who have yet to repent.

It’s clear from this earliest Christian writing we possess that Jesus’ first and second generation followers expected his Second Coming to take place in their lifetime. Though later generations had to adjust to his delayed Parousia, they gradually began to discover that the God working effectively among them was actually the risen Jesus; an experience which made their transition from “short-term” to “long-term” Christians much easier to accomplish. As often happens to all of us, what we once thought to be something in the future is actually here right now, if we just know what to look for.

No wonder Luke’s Jesus zeroes in on today’s Third-Isaiah pericope when he’s given the Scripture scroll to read in his hometown synagogue. Because of his belief in God’s kingdom among us he certainly conceives of his itinerant preaching ministry as a way to bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners. What he says and what he does frees people from the restrictions which make their lives unfulfilling and meaningless.

Pope Francis certainly hit the theological nail on the head when he insisted that some church leaders should stop being “sourpusses.” Could he have been implying that some of the key people in our Christian communities have yet to hear and proclaim Jesus’ good news; that they’ve yet to repent?

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