Sermon: First Sunday in Advent 2014

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I made and carried this sign for Seattle’s #BlackOutBlackFriday march on November 28, 2014.

“Advent Invitation for Ferguson and Vancouver”

Text: Readings for 1st Advent, Year B, RCL

I got the following announcement from a friend in our diocese yesterday:

As the nation experiences widespread protests in response to this week’s grand jury ruling in Ferguson, Missouri, at least 14 Episcopal Cathedrals and other congregations have committed to take at least one Sunday during Advent and talk about the issues the events in Ferguson have raised and where those issues of race, class and the oppression of God’s children are present in their own communities. On Tuesday, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, Dean Mike Kinman, used emails and social media postings to ask his fellow Cathedral deans to join him in taking this opportunity, writing:

This is not just about Ferguson or St. Louis. Deep divides of race and class touch every one of our cities. It might look different in different places but it is there. And I know you know that and probably already are addressing it. Right now, St. Louis and Ferguson have become the identified patient for American racism. And that will not heal us here and it will not heal our nation. I am hoping you can help do something about that. Will you take one Sunday in Advent and talk about Ferguson and your city?” […]

Dean Tracey Lind of Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland felt a special need to make this commitment because of the death in their community last week of Tamir Rice, a 12-year old African-American boy, who was shot and killed by a police officer.

“The grand jury decision not to indict the officer who is accused of shooting Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, combined with the fatal police shooting of a 12-year old boy here in Cleveland is upsetting and unsettling for many of us, “Lind said in a letter to her congregation. “Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis has challenged the cathedrals of the church to set aside a Sunday in Advent for our congregations to talk openly with one another about these events. I can think of no better time than this Sunday when we gather together to begin the season of Advent. […] 

“Without a doubt there will be differences of opinion,” Lind said. “but unless we can talk with one another honestly and with civility about things that really matter, we will never realize the peaceable Kingdom of God for which Jesus lived and died.”

Our own cathedral, St. Mark’s in Seattle, is on the list of congregations that have made this commitment. There are a growing number of non-cathedral parishes on the list, too. I won’t be with you again after today. This is my last Sunday before moving up to Seattle. I have been so blessed, so encouraged, and so strengthened in my faith by the love and generosity of St. Luke’s-San Lucas as I’ve served here over the past eleven months. I know in my own bones that this congregation has the power to share blessing, encouragement, and strength of faith with the whole world—starting right here in Vancouver. I know I can’t pay you back for the gifts you’ve given me as I’ve continued to grow and learn in my formation process. So I will try, as they say, to pay it forward. And as each of you receive life and love abundant from one another, in this very parish, please consider doing the same by way of this advent invitation issued by our greater family in Christ.

I’m now going to invite you to join me in four-and-a-half minutes of silence, as churched and un-churched people alike have been doing all over the country recently: in honor of Mike Brown from Ferguson MO. For the four-and-a-half hours his body lay in the street after he was slain, unarmed, with his hands up, begging to not be shot.

[Silence marked for 4 min, 30 sec]

Amen.

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About aaron

Catechist at Chaplains on the Harbor.
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