4th Sunday of Advent 2014 “How can this be?”

4th Sunday Advent 2014

My friends…..we have a problem!  In fact I think we may have several problems…

Or maybe as my Dad used to say, we don’t have a problem, we have an opportunity!  And believe me I am right here with you in this opportunity!  I find it as challenging and taxing and as troublesome in my life, some days more than others.

It revolves around the conversation between Gabriel and Mary in our Gospel today…

I would bet we all have had the opportunity to ask God the very same question that Mary so bravely asked Gabriel….

How can this be?

How can this be that my company is letting me go?

How can this be that my spouse or partner no longer wants to be with me?

How can this be that my child is struggling with addiction?

How can this be that I am dealing with my mental health or the mental health of others?

How can this be that my mom, dad, brother or sister, cousin, uncle best friend, has died?

How can this be that I have lost everything?

How can this be?

And then the even greater opportunity presents itself:

Do not be afraid….for nothing is impossible with God!

And we want to say, or scream or cry out….REALLY?

Because this situation certainly isn’t turning out the way I had planned or imagined it would turn out!

Because if nothing is impossible with God then why the hell am I dealing with this?

Really?  Because, if nothing is impossible with God then why was I in this accident, why did I lose my job, why did my loved one die, why?

And we are left, struggling with the silence, or fighting with the pious platitudes of our past or present.

Like if one more person says:  “Oh it must have been God’s will.”  I think I would scream!  The pious platitudes just don’t cut it in the Spiritual life.  Faith is much, much deeper than cliche’.

When those moments hit us, with their wallop of surprise,

And the tears flow, and the pain digs deep, and we scratch and claw our way through the darkness, tired, torn, bloodied and bruised, we discover something miraculous, we discover little by little that we are not alone!

All of a sudden, we touch the hand of another and together we keep digging, and then we find others in that same struggle, in that same darkness and simply the touch of their hand begins a spark of hope deep down in us and in them.

And together, those sparks begin to glow into hope and hope into faith and faith into joy and joy into peace and all of a sudden, sometimes months or years or decades later we find the glimmer of a smile on our face and the faces of others.

And we begin to realize that mystery really is a part of life, that others struggle, that even the holy ones, Mary, Joseph, Martha, and even Jesus, have been where we are, and that these experiences are part of every human experience.

And from that reality, in quiet stillness, in the tears, the hurt, the mystery, sometimes even almost imperceptibly, the spark of acceptance is born in our lives.

When acceptance is born, then we sit in the presence of our God, or we stand at the foot of the cross, or we sit holding the hand of another and we say…be it done to me as you say.

Not my will, but yours Oh God…

You see my friends….let us not make the mistake of putting on Scripture our own paradigm of how or when Mary’s “yes” came to be.  Scripture never says it was immediate, it never says even when Mary uttered those words…it may have been days, months, years or even decades later…

The encouragement of Scripture comes not from the time of Mary’s yes….it comes from the fact, that even she asked the question:

How can this be….and she struggled through the mystery as well….

In the end….her acceptance led to peace….

Maybe that is why we call Mary, the queen of Peace…

How can this be?

Let’s keep digging together and remember, nothing is impossible with God!


2nd Sunday Advent 2014-A New Heavens and A New Earth!

2nd Sunday Advent 2014 Year B

What we await are a new heavens and a new earth where, according to the promise, God’s justice will reside.  So beloved, while waiting for this, make every effort to be found at peace… (second reading: 2 Ptr 3: 8-45)

I think we must admit, these past few weeks have been anything but peaceful….

From Ferguson Missouri, to NYC, NY to Cleveland, Ohio, from Yemen to Afghanistan, we seem in many ways to be a people at war….with ourselves and with each other.

If you remember last week, I invited us to look at Advent in a new way…from a different paradigm, with a different set of lenses…

How can we be Church in this world in a new way…

How can we risk believing in the Gospel, the Good News unless we are willing to risk believing that it might actually be possible?

The owner of ClockWork, the tech company in Minneapolis who made Fortune magazines top 10 list of most desirable  companies to work for is just one business example of what I am encouraging us to consider as 21st Century Christians.

You see my friends, we can protest about gun violence, and protest about police overstepping boundaries, and we can preach about racism, sexism and any other injustice in our world.  But will that change anything…..will it really change who we are and how we think?

I invited us to pray that powerful prayer….God grant me the serenity….

And  this week I had the opportunity to sit, in silence with my buddhist friends, and as we sat, simply, no words, no music, no thing…I was struck by a real change…a real paradigm shift.

We may not need more laws telling cops when they can shoot and who….we may not need more laws or policies about how many times someone needs to be instructed about proper behavior or protocol on how to handle someone dealing with homelessness or addiction…..

What we may need, it to ask ourselves the question why do our police officers feel so threatened and scared for their lives that they feel the need to discharge their weapon?  We may need to ask ourselves, why in the richest nation on earth, is their anyone who is hungry?  We may need to ask ourselves, how we can lessen the negative impact our consumption of paper might benefit the next generation and maybe even the existence of our planet?

If a new heavens and a new earth are possible…and I believe they are…and I believe the Gospel and all our Scriptures point to it as well…then I am willing to risk saying that we too can be a people who can live and do live being Church in a different way.

It will mean asking ourselves some really deep and really profound questions, and sometimes those questions will push our limits….but that’s what any paradigm shift does.  Changing perspective, means changing ourselves.

Are we willing to risk believing the the Gospel, the Good News?  I believe we are…I hope you do as well!

So this week, when the media shows the protests, or they tv shows all the violence, maybe we can stop long enough to ask ourselves the question of what is really underneath it all and then do something…a letter, a note, an email, a phone call…that starts to attack the injustice…even if it is just in our own little part of the world…because if we would all do it….what would result is precisely the message of our Scriptures tonight….a new heavens and a new earth, where justice reigns!

You know all that any of us really want or need for our Spirits to thrive is to know that our lives really do make a difference in and to the world.

It’s that simple and that profound.

You matter, and I matter, and even those whom we struggle to encounter do matter, how can we let them know that?

1st Sunday Advent 2014-Stay Awake

1St. Sunday Advent 2014  Year B

Lets face it….this is one confusing liturgical season!

At some level it makes sense…..

We wait for spring to come and

by now some of us really are waiting for spring!

We wait for Christmas….

have to be honest growing up with the advent candle I used to beg to light the next one during the week so that I could see Christmas coming just a little faster.

We wait for prayer to be answered and sometimes it is and sometimes we are left wondering and wandering.

We have been told this season is a season of waiting

But waiting for what?

The Christ was born

The Christ died

The Christ will come again

We say it, we sing it and we proclaim it at every liturgy

So what are we waiting for?

I mean we are not waiting for the birth of Christ….

it is what we remember and recall….

but it already happened….

this season my friends

is not a season of pretending

it is a season of reality

Maybe what this season really is about

is more about arriving at…rather than waiting for

its just a shift of perspective…

but how do we go about shifting our perspective…

Every paradigm shift involves change…

Change in position, in understanding, in outlook

Just ask Corein….from the first time she planted her feet

and stood in front of this community to proclaim and preach

she has been shifting her perspective and in turn shifting ours!

She described it last week at the end of the liturgy saying…

it was as if she was wanting to turn the corner

and now she has….it was long, it was arduous..it was filled with

doubt and fear and roadblocks and obstacles…

but when she turned the corner….

there…God’s face was shining through our smiles

and God’s arms were reaching out through ours to embrace her…

still as Corein, but as Corein in a new way…

Maybe that is what Advent is about?

Not pretending that Christ will be born

But about arriving at a new perspective

on how God is being born in our lives…

We are still challenged with prejudice

We are still filled with fears and doubts

We are still hurtful and distrustful

We are still scared of mystery

But Advent reminds us

that if we trust in a God

who is so loving that God became one of us

That God, who cares so much that…

God chose to be born, to feel and experience all that we do,

then maybe we can have the courage

and the faith to change our perspective as well.

So what perspective needs to change in our lives?

What is God inviting us to look at differently?

What is God inviting us to let go of so

that we can see our lives in a new way?

Maybe rather than waiting for….

We can really be a people who are preparing to

arrive at….

A new understanding

A new hope

A new dream

A new vision

Of how we can be the heart and hands and feet of Christ in our world!

There is a great prayer that I am sure many of you know and may find helpful…will you join with me as we pray….

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I can not change

The courage to change the things I can


The wisdom to know the difference

Rev. Marty Shanahan