33:14 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
33:15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
33:16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”
This Sunday, we enter into the Advent season. Advent, a season of preparation. A season that invites us to adopt a posture of reflection and expectation. A season that invites us to prepare ourselves to once again listen to the story of our savior. Even more, advent is a season that invites us to prepare ourselves to once again tell the story of Jesus, the son of God, the One who came to redeem us. The truth is that the way we tell the story is influenced by the way the story was told to us. And, as we look at the history of how Jesus’ story has been told, we can identify a series of theological mistakes that still influence the way we tell the story of Jesus in the present day that should challenge us to redeem the way the story of Jesus has been told.
One of the theological mistakes that is still reflected in the way we do theology, the way we understand and exercise our ministerial practice, and the way we tell the Jesus’ story happened in 1492, the encounter of the old world with the “new” world. As Christopher Columbus encountered this new land and this “new people” he said: “…they are a people who can be made free and converted to our Holy Faith more by love than by force.” We know now that the way the Jesus’ story was told to the new people in the newly discovered land brought an overwhelming oppression and destruction.
Hundreds of years after this, Howard Thurman tells the story of how the Jesus’ story was told to his Grandmother in a way that reflects another theological mistake, to the point that her grandmother could not even listen to Paul’s letters.
During the days of slavery…the master’s ministers would occasionally hold services for the slaves. [They would not allow African American ministers to preach to the slaves]. Always the White minister used as his text something from Paul. At least three or four times a year he used as a text: ‘Slaves, be obedient to them that are your masters…, as unto Christ.’ Then he would go on to show how it was God’s will that we were slaves and how, if we were good and happy slaves, God would bless us. I promise my Maker that if I ever learned to read and that if freedom ever came, I would not read that part of the Bible.
As we have the opportunity to prepare and retell the Jesus’ story, let’s avoid reflecting these theological mistakes. Let’s avoid imposing by force our Holy Faith. Let’s avoid interpretations of Jesus that oppress, dehumanize, and abuse God’s image found in every human being.
Jeremiah paints us a beautiful and hopeful image. A righteous branch will spring up from David and will bring justice and righteousness in the land. Advent is a season that invites us to be prepared to the coming of the righteous branch, Jesus, the one who will bring justice and righteousness to our land.
Now, the temptation is real, it is easier to embrace hope. It is easier to want to listen to Jesus’ story emphasizing hope. It is easier to retell Jesus’ story emphasizing hope. But, we cannot ignore the signs of the time. Especially the painful signs of the time. Injustice is overwhelming in our world. Just last week we heard a verdict that makes it clear that our efforts to overcome inequality and inequity in our country need to increase. Even more, it is clear that dehumanization will continue happening, and as the Church of Christ we cannot be silent.
The Advent season is an urgent call for us to not go too soon to hope. The signs of the times are calling us to go through the Advent Season adopting a posture of Lament.
Walter Brueggeman, said this about Advent: “This is the bite of Advent. It is not just marveling at the newness God will give. It is not about cozy, comfortable hope. It turns out… [it] is a summon to action.” Perhaps the action is precisely to not go too soon to hope, but to allow space to lament, to tell Jesus’ story from the perspective of those who are not ready to embrace the hope Jesus brings.
Whether we like it or not, as leaders of the church we are supposed to tell the Jesus’ story in a way that those who are suffering, marginalized, and are tagged as underserved by society can really experience liberation and freedom. We are supposed to tell the Jesus’ story in a way that the oppressive powers are challenged. We are supposed to tell the Jesus’ story not being afraid to cause crises.
St. Romero said once: “A church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed – what gospel is that?”
As we go through this Advent Season, may we not go too soon to hope, but may we have the courage to lament, and to find ways to provoke the kind of crises that bring new life to the oppressed and marginalized in our world.
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