Not Broken... But Not Mended Yet
Advent 1, Year C
Church of the Ascension
December 2, 2012
The Rev. Amy Morehous
I will walk out of the darkness
And I'll walk into the light
And I'll sing the song of ages
And the dawn will end the night.
I'm a dweller on the threshold
And I'm waiting at the door
And I'm standing in the darkness
I don't want to wait no more.
--”Dweller on the Threshold”, lyrics by Van Morrison
So, here we are at the beginning again, you and I. Advent. That song by Van Morrison has been stuck in my head for weeks, as Advent drew closer. Even though it isn’t actually about Advent at all, it held a lot of my feelings about this holy time. A time when we wrestle with the now...and anticipate what has not yet come.
Our readings today acknowledge that now, and point us toward that not yet. They arise out of times of darkness: Jeremiah wrote for the exiled Hebrew people, people held captive far from home. Early Christians would have heard the book of Luke after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple. All that they had known had crumbled about their ears, and they knew the brokenness in the world, in their lives and in ours.
Joanna M. Adams said: "This Advent I feel an urgent need for the light that comes from God, and I do not think I am the only one….The clouds of anxiety about the future are hovering so low and close that you can barely see your hand in front of your face." She finds herself, like all of us, "holding on for dear life to the reassurance that God intends to make the world right again." ("Living by the Word" The Christian Century, November 28, 2006)
I spent two long months away from you, while I was at home recuperating from surgery. I chose some great books, made a stack at the foot of the bed. I had hopes of working through some of those. I had one complete knee reconstruction ten years ago, so I knew that after surgery I would have nothing but time. Of course, things don’t work out according to our plans. I spent so much of that time addled by the aftereffects of the surgery and the anesthesia and medication that most of my appreciation of words was lost to me. I didn't have the attention span to read a magazine, much less concentrate on a book. I would like to tell you that I handled it with grace. (I’d like to tell you that, but I know my husband is here, and he’d know I was lying.)
For weeks, I even found it difficult to pray, because I, who have always relied on my ability with words, found that I honestly couldn't string together the sentences to do it. I could read along with morning prayer or compine, but the only prayer some days that I could produce myself was one of Anne Lamott's favorites: "Help." All of you who have gone through something similar know that on the worst of days, you begin to wonder if you will ever be back together again. Even today, I have times when I'm sure I've not got all the bits up here stuck back together again, or if I have, that I’ve somehow reassembled them in the wrong order.
One day, about a month after surgery, Dave said, "How was your day?" I said, "My day was frustrating. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not permanently broken, but I'm not mended yet."
Not broken, but not mended yet. There is much in the world today, in each of our lives, that lands squarely in those uncomfortable place in-between. Not permanently broken, but not mended yet. To our modern ears, this mini apocalypse of a Gospel we hear today can seem like a harsh comfort for this in-between time, a time when we tire of darkness and yearn so much towards joy and light.
After the year we’ve all had, it’s easy to see how much in our world seems irreparably broken. A divisive election, destructive storms, earthquakes, war. It's not hard for us to find the evidence of disaster and darkness. And it's understandable that we would look at them and despair. After all, how is it possible for us alone to remedy what seems so irreparably broken?
It isn't. It isn't possible for us alone to overcome the darkness. But our readings remind us we aren't alone, and we as a people, individually or collectively, are not irreversibly broken. I am not broken, and you are not broken. We and our world are not yet mended. We hope for the One who is to come, who will be the great healer. The One who comes as a child, and the One who has promised to come again, in power and great glory. We are promised that one day, we and all that we know will be mended when we are whole in the kingdom of God. As Martin Luther King, Jr. put it, "Unconditional love will have the last word." So we have a choice - do we believe that someday the broken places will be mended? Do we believe that our wounds will be healed? Do we believe that God will fulfill all of God’s great promises?
I believe that in our own imperfect way, we are here to lift up our desire to do just that. We are here to push back against fear, and to affirm the eternal dawning of our hope in Christ. We are here to affirm the Christ who has been with us, who still dwells among us, who will return to us. Each Sunday, we come together and kneel before the table of God, to affirm that we believe in a God who has promised redemption and hope to the world, not brokenness and destruction.
So - how do we live as if we believe? How do we live today, if we believe that love will overcome all evil tomorrow? If we believe in a God who keeps those promises, that loves us beyond all reason, then that same God calls us to love each other along the way, and asks us to choose hope over fear. Our love for each other can be that taste of God's kingdom even in imperfect and difficult times. We ourselves can be the now in the midst of the not yet. You sent me meals and cards and e-mails and jokes. You prayed for me by name when I could not. You had words when I had none. You were the now in the middle of my messy and frustrating not yet.
The birth of Christ which we await is the in-breaking of the kingdom of God into this hurting world. God at work then, God with us here today, here even now. We are invited to be a part of that work, to lift up hope, to refuse to give in to fear, until Christ returns to fulfill the kingdom of God, in God's own good time. We are invited to be works in progress, in all the mess and the imperfection that implies. We are invited to follow Christ - that implies a life lived in motion. Where we are at this moment is not where we will end up. Not broken, but not yet mended.
This Advent may you walk out of darkness, and walk into the light. “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.” May you move forward to this new year, and may the inbreaking of God’s hope bring the dawn that ends the night. And may we be bold enough to live lives of Advent hope. Now...and always.