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Rejoicing on “Stir Up” Sunday… the 3rd Sunday of Advent

They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations…For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

I have always been fond of the lections and prayers for “Stir Up Sunday” – the third Sunday in Advent, nicknamed after the Collect for the Day:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen. [Book of Common Prayer, p. 212. Taken from the Book of Common Prayer Online, bcponline.com]

The Canticle for the day is similarly stirring: Mary’s Magnificat as recorded in Luke 1:47-55.

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

And the other lections are definite calls to bring in a new regime of compassionate righteousness.

I am – this year – especially stirred by the first lesson, from Isaiah:

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion—to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

For I the LORD love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the LORD has blessed.

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

What is interesting in my experience, this year, is a real sense that the people of God need to be – and are intrinsically involved in the re-creating of God’s creation, not merely the woods and the forests and the rivers and the streams, but also the creation of human society.

And so I was glad to receive in the mail two celebrated works of thought on religion as it pertains to the life and culture of participants and descendants of the African Diaspora in the Americas.

The first book is the classic A Black Theology of Liberation by James H. Cone. I got the twentieth Anniversary edition boasting critical reflections by Dolores S. Williams, Gayraud Wilmore, Rosemary Ruether, Pablo Richard, Robert McAfee Brown and KC Abraham.

The other book I received was Slave Religion, by Albert J. Raboteau. Subtitled The “Invisible Institution” in the Antebellum South, this work is a twenty fifth updated edition of the original, which started as a revision and expansion of Raboteau’s PhD dissertation at Yale. [Raboteau, 323]

What’s the connection?

Is it solely that our urban centers are largely associated with black people, especially the black underclass?

No. I think there is more of a connection – the idea that what we are looking for is already here: we have been given the mandate to take charge of the co-creation and stewardship of that part of creation which is our inner city neighborhoods – and perhaps providing some leadership for the exburbs which are increasingly experiencing the dynamics formerly associated with the “inner city.”

I’d like to say more on this, but I think I will let the words sink in, for me… and remember the closing words of the first lesson for 3 Advent B:

They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations…For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

Pretty exciting… a clear call to rejoice.

And a clear call to get to work.

In the unspeakable beauty of God’s creation
I wish you all blessings, encouragement and hope.

Thanks be to God!

Br. Christopher Lewis
Solitary Anglican Contemplative & UrbanCyberMonk
Sunday, 13 December 2008, The Third Sunday of Advent, Year B

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