Social Media platforms must be reformed. And they seem unlikely to get the job done themselves.
From tonight’s 60 Minutes broadcast…
Two years ago tonight…
My phone rang around 3am with the news of our mother’s death. I feel that moment tonight. God bless this strong and remarkable woman. I give thanks to God for her daily, even now. I’ll be reflecting on this anniversary. God bless the losses you, reader, have known. May the blessings we have known sustain us.
From this date two years ago …
“This morning I was able to visit with Mom. They’re called ‘compassionate visits.’ She is very weak. Leaving, I touched her arm and she opened her eyes. Bright, fluid, deep as the sea. I said, ‘We are all praying for you constantly Mom. I love you, always.’ She smiled and replied, ‘Thank you.’
Whenever I die, whatever is listed as cause of death, it should really say … whatever it took to leave that room today.”
A letter from John the Baptizer on the reality of joy deep in wilderness …
3rd Sunday of Advent 2016 Homily/Sermon
Struggling to find the joy of Gaudete Sunday in this Sunday’s Gospel text, I dreamt John the Baptist wrote me a letter. And I wrote it down . . .
You remember that I spent most of my life, that I did my work, in the wilderness. It is a dry place most of the time, tumbling brush and arid air. There was wilderness all around me, but in me there burned a fire for the coming of the Messiah and the Kingdom.
Now the wilderness, somehow, is inside me, deep in my heart. I am in prison day after day in a dark, damp, room under Herod’s palace. There is usually silence around me. Sounds of laughter, of meals being prepared way above in the kitchens: these reach me from time to time. But most often there is only silence around me.
Inside though, where the wilderness lives in me now, there is a voice. It is a voice that wonders whether I was right or wrong. It is a voice that wonders whether that fire that burned in me burned to clear the way for the reign of God or only ultimately to destroy me. There is no fire here. No warmth in this room. There is a window high in the wall where I can see a little of the light and here the rains falling. This is the wet and the cold time of year. The climate and me, we match.
Some of those who heard me preach by the River, who have stayed near in spirit, come to that window now and then. There are no official visits, but thank God, there are unofficial ones. One day I shared with them a question that is posed by that voice deep in me these days. It was a question for Jesus. I asked them to find him, to see him, to let him know of my state, and to ask: are you the One who is to come, or shall we wait for another? In this unbearable silence, I just had to hear him. I had to hear what he would say. I had to know what he would say to that question.
And then, I waited in the silence. I waited as the rain drops fell at the window above, like measurements of the passage of time. Time passes slowly here. But I know there is not a lot of it left for me now in this world. I bother Herod. I tell him the truth. He can’t help asking for it, but he doesn’t want to hear it. Someday soon, I don’t know how or when, he’s going to decide that he doesn’t want me here anymore. That he doesn’t want me anywhere. And then my time here will end. I know that and I accept it as my fate. But before that moment comes, I needed to hear again from Jesus. I needed to hear what he would say to that question.
They found him. They talked with him. They carried the question to his ears and, just like he always does, he let the question flow to his heart as well. They knelt the other day above me at the window and they spoke his answer. He answered with a question. He asked them what they saw, what they saw happening around him there, around them as they stood there. I don’t know how long they talked there, or how long they stayed, or how long they looked around them to really see. But I do know this. What they saw – blind men seeing, deaf hearing, lame leaping, the destitute hearing the first encouragement of their whole lives – these things are all restoration. They are all movements and moments making things as they are meant to be in God’s sight.
And all these things have been promised before. Isaiah the prophet spoke of these events as evidence of the saving presence of God. I don’t have the scroll here with me. Jesus knew that it is written in my heart and that I would recognize what is happening and what it means. I studied these words in my youth. The prophet wrote:
‘Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
‘Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.’
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.’
These are the signs of the presence of the living God. This is God’s work when he comes among us to save. I know what he is saying, and I know how to read the signs. I just had to hear him say it.
The last word of Isaiah that I just quoted, do you remember it, is ‘joy.’ I have been reminded, since my friends returned from Jesus, of what joy is. It is not happiness. Happiness, by comparison, is a weak and passing thing. Happiness comes and goes. It does not last. A bad day, one hard event, one deep loss, can send happiness scurrying away like a wild rabbit or disappearing like morning dew before the sun.
But joy is different. Joy is a gift. It comes only from the heart of God directly to the human heart. And it endures. God’s hands dig deep in the human heart to plant joy. It lives underneath the challenges of our days, deep below the sorrows in all their terrible variety that we suffer as human beings, sooner or later. Joy is not wiped away by any loss. It is the knowledge, written on the heart, that we are loved without beginning and without ending; that we are loved right through doubt and pain and disappointment and hunger and yes, through death as well.
Isaiah said that the “tongue of the speechless sing for joy.” And I realize that that is me today. I was a prophet, a man of word. Now I am a man of silence and the wilderness is within. But my tongue still sings for joy. Here, in unexpected and terrible ways, I discover for the first time the gift of joy.
I remember that just before and just after those words of the prophet talking about the gifts given to human lives when God comes as Savior, there are other words.
They talk about my dear, harshly beautiful, spare and empty wilderness; the wilderness I once lived in and the wilderness that lives now in me.
‘The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom . . .
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; . . .
A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way.’
I speak these old words aloud here alone in the silence, and I am in joy. The wilderness, my wilderness, within and without, will receive God’s good rain and will bloom. They are, now, blooming. Where there was only dryness, a fountain now runs. And the Holy Way, the one that I thought I was building, it is there now. It is there for you to walk along, in joy that outlasts sorrow, until you reach Jesus. Until you stand before him as my friends did and ask your question of him, heart to heart. But know that his answer will be the same, whatever the question. He will invite you to look around, to see what is real, what is happening and to know what it means. In the end, ultimately, it all means joy.
Just the other day I heard through the grapevine what Jesus said after my friends had left him and were coming back here with news. He said that yes, I have been a prophet, one of the best. But what means much more to me, he said that I am least in the Kingdom of God. What a blessing and what a joy! To be least is to be within, to be a part of it, to be in the blooming wilderness. I know now that all will be well. And I wanted you, whatever be your story, to know the same. All will be well.
From your brother, the least in the Kingdom.
Child of Elizabeth and Zechariah
Advent Calendar, by Rowan Williams
He will come like last leaf’s fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to the bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.
He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.
He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.
He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.