Donna Rougeux, ARCWP, and Dave Debonis led the Upper Room Liturgy on Sunday, January 13, 2019. Donna’s homily reflection follows the readings.
A WAY IN
Illuminata, A Return to Prayer
I see in my mind a little ball of golden light.
I watch this light as it begins to grow larger and larger, until now it covers the entire inner vision of my mind.
I see within this light a beautiful temple.
I see a garden that surrounds the temple and a body of water that flows through the garden.
I see that the inside of the temple is lit by this same beautiful golden light, and I am here.
For I am been drawn here by the power and in the presence of God.
I dedicate my days and my relationships and experiences to You.
May Your Spirit, which is within me, so guide my thoughts, my feelings and my perceptions of all things
That I might grow into a happier, more peaceful, more loving human being.
Illumine my mind, illumine my life. Amen.
1st Reading: Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-7
Here is my Servant, who I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight! I have endowed you with my Spirit that you may bring true justice to the nations.
You do not cry out or raise your voice or make yourself heard in the street. So gentle that you do not break a bruised reed, or quench a wavering flame, faithfully you will bring forth true justice.
You will neither waver nor be crushed until justice is established on earth. For the islands await your teaching!
I YHWH, have called you to serve the cause of right; I have taken you by the hand and I watch over you.
I have appointed you to be a covenant people, a light to the nations; to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those who sit in darkness from the dungeon.
Gospel Reading: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
The people were full of anticipation wondering in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.
John answered them all by saying. “I am baptizing you I water, but someone is coming who is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not fit to untie!
This One will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire. A winnowing-fan is in his hand to clear the threshing floor and gather the wheat into the granary, but the chaff will be burnt in unquenchable fire.”
When all the people were baptized, Jesus also came to be baptized. And while Jesus was praying, the skies opened up and the Holy Spirit descended on the Anointed One in visible form, like a dove.
A voice from heaven said, “You are my Own, my Beloved. On you my favor rests.”
Think about the following questions in regard to the readings to prepare for the shared homily:
What did you hear? What does it mean to you? What will it cost you?
Donna's Homily Reflection:
Today we look at the Christian pivot from military liberation to Spiritual liberation. It may be helpful to provide some context for the first reading from Isaiah. God delivered the Jewish people to freedom in Egypt and made a covenant with them. In turn, they built a temple as their sacred space to worship. In the 6th century the Babylonians defeated Israel, destroyed the temple and drove the inhabitants back to Babylon. Isaiah is one of the first and major prophets of the Hebrew scriptures who addresses the pain of being in exile.
It is understandable that the displaced Jewish people seek a liberator who will give them their land back, return them to a state of prosperity and protect them from harm. These are things an earthy king would do. But Isaiah speaks of a servant liberator whose power comes from love and promotes justice for all people. Isaiah reminds the reader that all people are precious in God’s eyes.
This liberator is not a conqueror or dictator but rather a spirit-filled servant. He is so gentle that he does not raise his voice and would not break a bruised reed or quench a wavering flame. The liberator possesses a quiet strength.
The liberator does not seek domination or control but rather justice and seeks this not just for Israel but for all people. Particular care is noted for those who sit in “darkness” (e.g., the blind, those in dungeons). The covenant that God made with the Jewish people is not one of privilege but rather a covenant of service to others which has true justice as the goal. It is understandable that the Jewish people would wonder if John was the Messiah. They had been waiting centuries for liberation from their oppressors.
In the Gospel reading the winnowing fan and threshing floor images refer to the process by which grain is prepared and the useable part of the grain is separated from the chaff. Part of this process is for the wind to carry away the chaff. The wind metaphor is often used when discussing the spirit. The reference to the chaff being burned in an unquenchable fire is often portrayed as punishment. In reality it symbolizes purification. The Spirit is like the wind that helps us let go of those things that get in the way of our ability to love and establish justice. The Spirit can help us let go of the chaff in our lives: jealousy, fear, anger, and greed. Once the chaff is removed we are like harvested wheat, we have greater capacity to image God.
John tells his followers that Jesus will baptize them in fire, which is another common metaphor for spirit. Fire is uncontrolled and spontaneous. The word baptism comes from the word baptizo which means to immerse. When we are immersed, we are overwhelmed. To be overwhelmed with Sprit can be a spontaneous and life-changing experience. We are stronger, more creative and have great courage when we encounter the Spirit.
While Jesus was praying, the Spirit came to him and God spoke to him. Like Jesus, we must make time for quiet reflection, prayer, and meditation so that we can receive what we need to live the Gospel. Although we often think of prayer as asking God to do something for someone else, it is also about gaining what we need so that we can bring light to others.
Scholar John Bennison, in his article entitled The Spirit Within, demonstrates the church’s attempt to replace spirit inspired action with adherence to a set of doctrines. Bennison concludes that the Divine spark that dwells in each of us cannot be domesticated or indoctrinated and it is this very spirt that allows us to love in the radical and subversive way of Jesus.
Isaiah prophesied the coming of a liberator. Jesus exemplified this reframing of liberation. We are called to live in freedom so that we can liberate others. We pray for the strength and courage to let go of the things that keep us and others in captivity. This is true liberation in, by and through the Spirit.
-What did you hear, what will you do, and what will it cost?