PREPARING THE SOIL OF FAITH
FOR THE SEEDS OF
LAST YEAR’S HARVEST !
The First Week in Preparation Time
We begin this Sunday, in churches all over the world, the season of Advent, the season that leads up to the birth of Christ – and the birth of a new movement for God’s people.. For us, the road will lead through the celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. And for us, Advent is preparation time: as we prepare the soil of faith in which the seeds of last year’s harvest can be planted, grow and give us another harvest of the Lord.
It begins as the story of two families – and the movement they began. These two famiies –Zechariah and Elizabeth and their son John, Joseph and Mary and their son Jesus – were related as Elizabeth and Mary were cousins.
They were two families that lived in poor pueblos in a country that had been conquered and was occupied by the Roman Empire. This people’s own religious leadership had compromised with the Roman conquistadores. They were poor, oppressed, discouraged, abandoned by their religion, treated as less than human by their conquerors, without hope. Most had given up hope that their lives could change. They were broken.
We begin the week with Zechariah’s story and an instruction for him, and for us, from an angel. Zechariah worked for the temple. He was working a shift, taking care of the altar, when an angel appeared to him. Now Zechariah was old as was his wife Elizabeth and Elizabeth had no children. The angel told Zechariah that Elizabeth would have a child.
Zechariah was told to name the child John. He was told that John would be “great in the eyes of the Lord.” That he would “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and bring to the disobedient wisdom, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Now Zechariah did not believe that his wife, who was so old, could have a child. Because Zechariah could not believe would that the Lord would come into his life, the angel struck him silent – and he remained silent until the baby was born.
You see, Zechariah did not acknowledge that his life was broken, that his religion was compromised and broken, and so the Lord struck him silent.
Our lives are broken in the same way – and, like Zechariah – we don’t acknowledge it. Even when we are doing relatively well, working, making money, even buying a home even then we feel the discrimination. But especially, when we are hunted, when we or those we love are picked up like criminals, lives left in ruins, our families separated, we feel like our lives are treated like garbage.
It is dehumanizing when our humanity is denied equal status to others. And if we accept this, we dehumanize ourselves. We are unfaithful in our marriages, we abuse our children, we lose our self-respect. We do not put value on what we have: on our marriage, our children, our church, our friendships, on our struggle together for justice – because those who oppress us put no value on our lives. We accept their judgment of who we are – and we become what they say we are.
We lie to cover up what we think we have become – and then we begin to live in a web of lies until we no longer know what is true – no longer know what is real.
We live in a country with a broken law, and we live broken lives. As a result, many of us deny the truth of our reality, of our brokenness. We don’t recognize that we are broken – but the children do, and they feel it when our families are broken – and they feel it when they see families torn apart by an unjust law.
When I worked on a ranch in Texas as a young man, we would be told to pick out a horse. You rope the horse and let him run until he knows he cannot get away from you. Then you just have to lay the reins over the horses neck to make him obey. When you but the bridle in his mouth and the saddle on his back, he still fights it. When you ride him at first, he bucks. Then he settles down with the bit in his mouth, the saddle cinched tight around his stomach, and accepts his domination. We say then that we have “broken” the horse. He no longer has the hope of being free.
That is what is done to us when we accept the system’s definition of us: that we are replaceable, that we have no rights they are bound to respect, that the promise of God is not for us
God asks us to be silent and listen, to open our eyes and see, to open our hearts and feel, our humanity, the humanity of our families and our people – to dare to hope that we could be as God created us to be.
That is what the angel did to Zechariah: he struck him silent because he had lost hope; he had accepted the life of compromise and brokenness; he did not believe that his family, his people, had the future that God had promised. He did not believe that God could come into his life and the life of his people and bring about change.
Even when the angel told him, especially when the angel told him, that his son would be great in the eyes of God, would turn the hearts of fathers towards their sons, would give those who put no value on their families, on their people, the wisdom to know how precious what they have really is – still he did not believe – so the angel struck him silent.
God asks us to stop talking, stop justifying what we do, to stop lying, to stop talking, talking, talking about ourselves, to stop cutting down each other – just to stop talking and listen: have the courage to hope that an angel will speak to you and tell you what is to come; have hope that God will come into your lives this year.
We have indeed been given the seeds of last year’s harvest to plant this year.
We have been given seeds of justice. We celebrated in prayer this morning because we won an important case this week, proving that the discretion defense we won can work. That discretion defense which can give protection to millions of people was the fruit of last year’s harvest, but we must plant those seeds this year in the organization of the defense committees,
We have been given the seeds of a new movement in the south. We are going back to South Carolina this week because something new has been born in the south, a new unity of the struggle of the undocumented and the civil rights movement, a new Black Latino unity. Those seeds must be planted and nurtured this year.
We have been given seeds of a new movement as we offer young people the chance to serve their own community and offer the gift of life through the 4 plus 1 to get 20 campaign. This week we are sending three women for biopsies. We are praying for them – but we also know that because of the 4 plus 1 they got early detection and that means they can get treatment that will add years to their lives. Early detection means life.That is a seed that came from last year’s harvest but it must be planted and nurtured this year as we set the goal of 1,000 young people involved to get 10,000 people screened for treatable diseases.
We have been given seeds of reconciliation in broken families, in young people that get caught up in the street life; in drugs and alcohol. In this we did not always succeed, but even when reconciliation failed, we gained wisdom. Sometimes wisdom has a bitter taste but you must face it. Look into the broken hearts of the children that have come from broken families so that you have the resolve to start again this year in your relationships. Remember those who are in prison or dead today because they lost their way in the culture of the street.
Remember John was to come to turn fathers towards their sons and to bring wisdom to those who had been disobedient to God’s law. We prepare to plant both the seeds of successful reconciliation and the seeds of wisdom this year.
These are seeds that can grow. Yet these seeds only grow in the soil of faith. And faith depends on our having the courage to hope. God offers us a promise of healing in broken lives, of justice in a broken nation, and if we have the courage to hope, our faith will grow. And so we will cultivate our soil of faith for the seeds to grow in by having the courage to hope.
We will begin on next Saturday with our charge conference, to set our plans and program for the year to come. Then we will continue with our intervention in the novena on December 8th and the 9th. We are asking everyone to help and collect the letters of children asking Barack Obama to stop separating their families. On the 8th and the 9th we will listen to the letters that the children – from age 4 to 18 – have written. We will listen to the children’s letters and their hopes. And I ask you to listen to your own children at home – to value them and to value their hope.
Listen to the children, who have hope. Don’t let the world break you like a horse is broken. Let the child in you come alive. Hope, that your faith may become the soil for the seeds of justice and love, the seeds of the Kingdom of God, that can grow in the year to come.
Scriptures for the First Week in Preparation Time
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, LORD; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people.
Luke 1:5-17 The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Luke 1:17-25 The Angel Said To Him, “I Am Gabriel”
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”