I thought Pastor Mark Martin did a fine job preaching today. I have had the opportunity to reflect more on the Bible passages he used, both Mark 13 and Isaiah 61.
We may recall the Anhueser-Busch commercial that asked the short-film question, "Whassup?" We may translate the expression as, "What's happening? What's occuring?" A literal answer might be "Advent." At its root advent means a happening, an occurrence, as in, we are celebrating what is occurring, what is happening, right now, right in front of us.
To ask the question - what's happening? - presumes that the one being asked has sufficient awareness to answer cogently. This is the challenge of the annual pre-Christmas Advent season. It demands of us our attention; it insists that we practice mindfulness. We quote Jesus during this season as he describes to his disciples the coming of the end of the world (Mark 13). It is easy to interpret this Scripture as a formula for calculating the day and time of Jesus' return, yet the invitation is far more profound. It is not the end of the world that is meant to draw our awareness, but rather the end - that is, the purpose - of our own time in God's time.
The TV flickers, the lights flash, the music blares, lists get added to agendas, year-end deadlines get multiplied by year-end sales, and we hurtle toward the future with enough momentum to carry us months into the new year. With so much designed to hold our attention in thrall, do we really know what is happening? Can we read the signs of the present time, and can we see beneath the surface of things the really real? Isaiah cries out for God to tear open creation so that we can finally see. See what? See the invisible presence of God in which we are profoundly embedded, the Lordship of Christ in which we are deeply entwined.
In this God and his Christ you and I live, move, and have our being. Their presence is veiled from us, but not entirely hidden. Those with eyes to see glimpse them in justice. Those with ears to hear listen to them in murmurs of mercy. Those with nerve-endings can feel them in faith. When we become aware of them we have entered Advent. We know whassup.
Some of the reactions to the Penn State football fiasco tended to see Joe Paterno as having faced a moral dilemma. One dilemma was between his friendship for Sanduskey and the law. The other was between his legal responsibility to the university and his legal responsibility to report to the police.
Having made poor choices, I feel for anyone who likewise does so. Yet I don't see Paterno having any moral dilemma whatsoever. A friend who allows another friend to abuse children is no friend at all.
And although Paterno may have been following university policy, this is no better an excuse than that used by the Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg: They were just following orders, and thus were not culpable.
The plea didn't work then, and it doesn't work now. Sometimes life gives us moral dilemmas: The boat is sinking and we must choose between rescuing our spouse, our parent, and our child. But in this case, I think the right, moral option was as clear as the distinction between black and white. The priority is to defend the abused child from further abuse. What could be simpler?
This morning I learned something new. This should happen every day in a perfect world, and it may for most people, but today in particular I noticed my learning. Parishioners are participating in the Occupy Iowa City (Wall St.) campaign! I confess that I have puzzled over how to react to this movement: I have not seen a clear articulation of an agenda. Here is where my parishioners came to my rescue. They suggested that this group is not willing to homogenize into a focused agenda. Rather, the Occupiers are folks who feel that the country is going wrong, that 1% growing so much richer and leaving 99% behind is clearly wrong, and they - the Occupiers - must stand up and be counted. I can't disagree, although I also can't claim that my hands are totally clean: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and I am sure that in some way I am culpable for what is happening on Wall Street simply by having retirement investments. Yet, I feel compelled and attracted to what I am hearing.
One person asked this question today: As Christians, how should you and I react to this movement? Are we ready to march? What do we know abou the Occupy movement?