Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sermon Opener and NOtes For Dec 21, 2008

Songs of Justice

I think I should let you all know that you have just done something that has been banned. Oh not here in Atikokan. But it has been banned by somebody at one time or another. Of course that in and of itself is not unusual. In our lives we all do a variety of things that have been banned by someone somewhere. This may mean dancing, or drinking alcoholic beverages, or eating ham, or celebrating Christmas. But what is notable is what this banned activity is and why it was banned.

We have just read a banned piece of poetry. Again not unusual. Many pieces of writing have been banned over the years. We have just read something that was banned because it was seen as breeding sedition. And that was? The piece of Scripture commonly called the Song of Mary or the Magnificat.

Yes. You heard correctly. A piece of the Christmas story was declared seditious and banned from being read aloud. It was in Guatemala in the 1980's (and I believe the government in question was an ally of the United States). And do you want to know the really surprising thing? They were right! Mary's song is in fact seditious, or at least revolutionary. The words in it call for a total upturning of the world, a “new world order” to borrow a phrase. Like most of Scripture Mary's song is an indictment of the world as it is and a promise of the world as it could be. It is a song of God's justice.

  • Look at what the words actually say. What do they call for? Where is the “peace, order and good government”, the “peaceably and in good order”?
  • Scripture as counter to the domination and imperial systems of the world – from Moses on.
  • God's passion is justice. Justice that sees the world totally differently than the powers and principalities.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends inexorably toward justice.
  • Medical Mission Sisters On a dark day deep in the present, grinding the loneliness and plight of the poor. Only the clean of heart dare to remember, the poor were his Gospel and their hope is sure.
  • Liberation theology Preferential option for the poor
  • Bruce Harding In every age through time unfolding your constant love abounded; for through your great subversive power the proud they are confounded...The mighty ones they lose their privilege, you sanctify the lowly. You cry that all need food abundant for every child is holy.
  • Jesus as revolutionary, Jesus' passion is God's passion, Jesus' passion for King-dom of God
  • Luke reads back his experience of Jesus, Luke the gospel of social justice.
  • Christmas as start of the revolution. Christmas as sign of God's justice breaking into the world.
  • Christmas revolution calls for more than charity. Revolution calls for real change, calls for challenges to structures, calls for real actions not just to feed the hungry but to ask why they are hungry.
  • Dom Helder Camara When I fed the hungry, they called me a saint. When I asked why people are hungry, they called me a communist.
  • Play My Soul Sings by the Hardings
  • Read from my 2002 column:
On Christmas day we celebrate the birth of the child that sparked Mary 's song. As an adult this child would proclaim his ministry with words that echoed his mother's cry for justice (Luke 4:18-19). If we follow the path he followed, then we need to join in the struggle to fill the hungry with good things, to lift up the lowly, and to free those who are oppressed. On Christmas we mark the beginning of the revolution that will bring on the age of peace, the age where lion lies down with lamb and all have that which they need to live.

Christian faith is not mainly about individuals feeling good about themselves. It is not mainly about life beyond this one. Christian faith is mainly about how we live together in this life, it is about community. The path laid out by the Christ child is one of justice in this world. At Christmas we are flooded with requests for charity. But to truly celebrate Christmas we need to do more than write the cheques and donate the food.

The true Christmas gift is to make changes in society so that people don't need our donations to make it through the cold winter. What will our gift be this year?

This year, as we prepare once again to sing about angels and shepherds, I urge us once more to hear Mary's song of revolution. This year let us join in the revolution of faith - a faith that calls for a world renewed, a people restored, and a hope fulfilled.
  • Where will the Christmas revolution take root in our lives?

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