November 28, 2016
By: Jane Bishop Halteman
Despite the fact that the liturgical year has shifted from ordinary time into its annual focus on Advent, which marks that period of waiting for the birth of the Christ child and the start of the new church calendar four Sundays before Christmas day, I find myself dragging election distress into this season of waiting, pondering, embodying. As we continue to become more aware that many minority groups living among us in this country now feel less welcome in our midst, perhaps bringing post-election baggage into Advent is to be expected this year.
Christine Sine said this in her Advent 1 post Sunday at her blog Godspace: “God’s home is always open to the hurt and the broken, the lost and the lonely, the homeless and orphaned, the rootless and forgotten, those needing saving from themselves, requiring rescue and release. There is no rejection here, only unconditional love.”
How might we, the people of Kern Road, I wonder to myself, find a way to be sanctuary for those who feel threatened, unprotected, frightened, at any kind of loss during this uncertain post-election period? How might we make our space a place of “no rejection here, only unconditional love,” particularly for those feeling less than cared for at this time?
To orient us to the embodied waiting of Advent, Janice spoke in her first Sunday of Advent sermon about a variety of physical waiting experiences to which we might relate: perhaps we are waiting for bodily healing, perhaps we are awaiting relief from grief or loss or other emotional brokenness, perhaps we are waiting for pregnancy or adoption, to lose a tooth, to get taller, to build physical endurance. And she asked this thought-provoking question: “How does God want to be carried in our bodies?”
My personal response, triggered, to be sure, by election fall-out, shouts inside of me that now is the perfect opportunity for us to speak out on behalf of the marginalized, to extend a welcome to all. As I was completing this post Sunday night, I read a poignant account of a scenario which took place the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in a 45-minute line at a Los Angeles grocery store checkout. Upon hearing the white male behind him use vulgar hate language about women, another white male spoke up after a long silence from bystanders: “I’m sorry, everyone, but I must ask for some support in addressing this….Someone look up because I can’t do this alone.” He reports that people who had been looking down “began to look up. I began to cry and I don’t know why but I couldn’t stop. I continued telling him” that his comments were inappropriate and that I would not “allow them in my world.”
What brought this man to the recognition that he needed to speak up? “I suddenly flash to a remembrance of me as a 6-year-old child. A family member once owned a home that was part of the Underground Railroad. We’d sit behind this concrete slab under their deck and talk about what happened here. Even as a small child, a young, white man myself, I said I would die before I let that kind of open hate live in my world. I made the same resolution when I learned about the Holocaust in junior high. And I felt that exact same fire now, in the grocery store.”
In what ways can we join forces across America, and particularly in our own space here at Kern, to step up/speak out on behalf of the marginalized? As the young man who shared the above experience reported, “Together, we silenced hate. We made the choice to look up. And we shared a moment. I was overwhelmed with emotion and fear before I decided to speak, but I asked for help...and help came forth, strongly and beautifully.”
Other thoughts from Janice’s sermon: “In what ways are you waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled, and how is God waiting?” And, answering her own question, she continued: “God is waiting to call forth people to carry God’s way into the world…God longs to use us to embody God’s hope for the world,” God’s dream for the world.
If you are seeking ways to mark the days of Advent so that you might embody the season or build your own confidence to speak up or step out, try one of these on-line daily meditation options: Goshen College’s Advent devotions or Upper Room’s photography challenge.
Other encouraging stories for a time such as this include a Notre Dame/Saint Mary’s on-line Observer post discussing “compassion, civil discourse, and concrete action” (including comments from panel discussant and KRMC member Megan), this Southern Poverty Law Center list of ways to challenge hate, a majority immigrant church’s response to vandalism, and this Guardian commentary by Barbara Kingsolver on how we might be called as American people of faith to speak up for the marginalized, stretching beyond our typical ways of being, perhaps, to embody inclusion for the outsider. The latter is a tough one…don’t read it if you aren’t ready for Kingsolver's call to action!