Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent

Peaceable Kingdom by Eric Berg at All Saints Episcopal in Great Neck, NJ

I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.
(Scriptures for today's liturgy)

Audio for homily

Dorothy Day, a journalist, an advocate for the poor and a pacifist,
wrote this telling line:

I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.

There is a very uncomfortable truth in those words for us
who follow Jesus who taught us:
to love our neighbor as ourselves;
to love one another as he loved us;
that those who say, “I love God”
but don’t love their neighbors, are fooling themselves
or, as St. John put it: they’re liars.

I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.

Who’s the person I love the least?
Who are the people I love the least?
Whatever is my love for them, or lack of it --
that may be the measure of how much I really love God.

If these words sting
(and I know I feel their sting)
then look for the good news in the scriptures today.
Isaiah dreams a vision in which no one is loved least,
where, with all fear, enmity and harm gone,
all are loved by all, equally and without exception.

Isaiah’s images of wolves and lambs,
cows and bears, leopards and kid goats
all grazing and playing together as friends and neighbors
might seem like illustrations from a children’s book --
and perhaps it takes a child’s innocence, a child’s perspective
to believe that such peace, such reconciliation,
could ever be our own experience.

But that's precisely what Advent invites us to dream:
a peace that passes all understanding
and a reconciliation beyond the terms of our ordinary experience.

Advent invites us to look not just to Christmas,
but to the end time when a trumpet
will sound the end of all suffering,
the healing of all brokenness,
the lifting up of the lowly
and the reconciliation of all peoples and things in God.

But until then, John the Baptist and this season call us
to prepare the way of the Lord
by living out and working at even now
the realization of Isaiah’s vision.
That doesn’t mean we need be come zoo keepers or lion tamers!
But it does invite us to consider
how we might learn to make guests of our enemies;
to live more peaceably with family and neighbors;
how we might forgive what we find so hard to forgive;
how each of us might be reconciled to God…

Isaiah pictures his peaceable kingdom on a mountain
but for us the venues will be different:
our homes, our schools, our neighborhoods,
our work places, our town, our parish.

Advent calls us to dream of the end of all conflict;
the reconciling of estrangements in families and neighborhoods;
the letting go of old hurts, grudges and resentments;
the restoration of trust and confidence in the Church;
and our being at peace with God
in whatever ways you and I might need to seek his mercy.

Such is the work the Lord seeks to do in our lives
and he calls us to prepare his way, to clear him a path
to dismantle the walls that keep us from loving one another
and thus, keep us from loving God.

I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.

Perhaps the saddest sin of believers
is to stop dreaming,
to give up on the peace Christ promises,
the peace he calls us to make with one another.

Advent includes preparing to celebrate Christmas
and reaching out to those in need at this time of year,
but Advent’s larger agenda seeks to cut a broad swath
through the weeds and brambles of our lives.

Advent seeks to make a super highway for the Lord
who still seeks, after some 2,000 years
to make his dwelling among us,
right where we live and love - and fail to love.

Jesus seeks to live in our own town
as surely as he did in David’s town of Bethlehem.

Bethlehem means, “House of Bread,”
and so it’s fitting that we should seek the One who seeks us,
here, at the table of the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation.

Here we meet the One
born in the wood of a manger,
to die on the wood of a Cross,
that on the wood of this table we might meet him
in the sacrifice of the Eucharist.

May the sacrament we celebrate and receive here
nourish in us the hope and dream of peace on earth,
among all, in all and for all.

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