As we wind down Season two of three minute ministry mentor, a little Advent and Christmas reflection seems in order. Next Monday we will look back over 2020, so this week I’ll keep it brief and offer some reflections about Advent itself. To guide me, I thought I would respond to the questions posed last week by my friends Erin Robinson Hall, Mary Elizabeth Hill Hanchy and Carlye Daugird.
— Three Minute Ministry Mentor (@3MinuteMin) December 21, 2020
How has joy surprised me?
Sometimes getting to joy takes real work and effort. This advent we needed a few protracted conversations at our house to reach and then hang onto joy. Living together in lockdown for most of 2020 has been challenging in many ways. Like other families we’ve had our ups and downs. I try to remind myself every day that there has never been this much time day by day with my child and probably never will be again. That brings me joy each time I think about it.
Other times joy comes out of the blue and surprises me. I had one of those moments this week and I hope to tell you more soon. Just feel the joy of anticipation while you wait for that announcement.
How have I hoped in the midst of brokenness?
Thank you for that question, Mary Elizabeth, and for pointing to the gift of deep magic. What a year of brokenness 2020 has been. It simply cannot be overstated.
We have tried week by week in the episodes of 3MMM to address the multiple pandemics of racism, Covid-19, and the disparities and grief revealed in this year. How does one hope in the midst of all of that?
My simplest answers go like this… I keep meditating and sinking into the deep silence that is God’s presence. And in that practice I encounter what has been supporting me all along: something holy, profound, present. It opens up hope in my heart.
I gather with my faith community each week on zoom for worship, prayer, singing, mandala coloring, happy hour (sharing what keeps us going), stories, recipes, catching up, laughing and challenging each other to live with honesty and for something beyond ourselves. When I see these people who are part of my life, I feel hope hang on a little longer.
And day by day, I teach and write and look for creative ways to support others in their quests to do the same. Accompanying students and colleagues as we try to bring the practice of ministry to life gives me a strong sense of hope.
Speaking of writing…
Are you hoping to get some writing to happen over the next few weeks of winter break? Dissertation? Catching up school work? Finishing those sermons? Getting in some much needed work on an academic article or book? Or maybe you are just looking for some space to write reflectively about this past year. Whatever your hopes are for writing, I invite you to join me this winter break for a few good hours of writing.
Who are the least of these and how do I love them?
This is a question Jesus asked in Matthew 25. In our time it takes great care to respond to this question. In Jesus day the hierarchies were quite clear and he drew on the tradition of the profits to love and care for the orphan and the widow is a clear expectation. Although religious people of Jesus day also found ways to avoid fulfilling this ethical mandate.
In 2020 we find all kinds of ways to avoid seeing, much less loving, the “least of these.” By naming who is marginalized we participate in their marginalization. This is a hard pill to swallow. I remember the pain of discovery that if I wrote about harm and marginalization that clergywomen still experience to the church, I risked being part of that exact problem. Yet if I did not examine the problem, I could not be part of undoing it.
Social, religious and economic marginalization are real and all around us, woven into our society in the US. The “least of these” are not off in a hovel, or a ghetto, or at some refugee camp. They are our neighbors, grocery clerks, bankers, teachers, and healthcare workers. Social marginalization has a way of cross-cutting, so that even the wealthy can still be marginalized, and even the successful can still be outcast, and yes, many of the poor and struggling people in our world are doubly and triply marginalized. Seeing this complexity and understanding our personal role it maintaining it, is hard work. And the ethical mandate to see, love and be with the “least of these” remains a struggle and a challenge for me this Advent season.
What questions are you struggling with? Motivated by? Finding helpful this Advent?
Joy, Hope and Love
My hope and prayer for you and yours is that joy, hope and love are yours in abundance this Christmas. Even though grief, loss and uncertainty are likely to be hanging around as well, I hope you can lean into the presence and holiness that is all around you. Blessings.