|Pen and Ink Reflections||
How do we respond to death? I don’t ask that as a negative question but because it is at the heart of our Gospel – our Good News – today, and throughout this Holy Week. It is an unavoidable question, however much we try to avoid it: for, as the old proverb has it, two things are certain in life: death and taxes. Yet, more meaningfully, Christians believe, how we respond to death is at the heart of how we find life in this world, which is the ultimate meaning of our Gospel and the culmination of this Holy Week in the Resurrection. So, as we hear today’s Gospel reading (the story of Christ’s Passion according to Luke) - in three parts - let us reflect upon the challenge of death, so that we may find life again more fully, as Jesus offers it to us…
How do you picture peace? I wonder if your vision is quite the same as that of the prophet Isaiah in the John the Baptist story in our Gospel reading today? Isaiah says this: “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Well, that definitely doesn’t work for me if it were taken at all literally. For I was born in the North Pennine hill country of England, which owes so much of its life, history, wildness and picturesque beauty to the variety of its landscape, its hills and valleys. I certainly know that the folk of the Durham Dales would do all they possibly could to avoid every valley being filled, every hill being made low, and the winding paths and rough ways being made smooth. I suspect too that few people in Toowoomba would take kindly to such an environmental transformation of our own Range, valleys, hills and landscape. No. On this second Sunday in Advent, as we centre on the theme of peace, we need to look deeper if we are to find fuller meaning in today’s Gospel reading. Perhaps we are helped by re-casting Isaiah’s words a little. To that end, I offer some words of the great El Salvadorean archbishop and martyr Oscar Romero: words which I believe catch up the spirit of the Advent prophets, that “Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.” Let me return to that, and to John the Baptist in our Gospel, again, in a moment…
by Jon Inkpin for Advent Sunday 2014
Keep awake – keep alert – again and again we hear this message repeated in the Gospels, especially around this Advent season. Keep awake: like an alarm clock, this message challenges us to rise from our slumbers and get living. It calls on us to open our eyes, open our ears, and open our hearts, to the love of God coming afresh in, and among and beyond us. What a vital message this is for a Christian new year, as well as a preparation for Christmas. Are we awake? Are we alert? Are we expecting God to live and grow and come to birth in and among us?
In many ways, the best response to the Advent challenge is that which we see in Mary, the mother of Jesus. That is why we have taken Mary’s song, the Magnificat, as our Advent theme this year. ‘Give Thanks – Give Life’: that is the refrain. For giving thanks and giving life are two major elements of Mary’s song, the Magnificat, which we also can share in. Just as Mary gives thanks for the Holy Spirit whom she sees and hears God in and around her, so we too can open our eyes and ears to that same Spirit among us. Just as Mary opened her heart, and her very being, to the love and power of God, so we too can open our hearts, and our very selves, to the love of God in Christ Jesus. Giving thanks and giving life: these things can be symbolised or embodied in ordinary Christmas presents. Yet they are most fully embodied in the giving of of our whole human lives…