This marks the first installment of my weekly Layman Lectionary series where I stumble my way through the liturgical year and share my opinions, doubts, fears, and hopes about modern culture and daily life as it corresponds to scripture.
First Sunday of Advent
Click here for readings.
I don’t know about you, but when I look around, I don’t see a lot of it on people’s faces. And when I chat with people — when we’re doing the small-talk thing about the news, the weather, their aunt Phyllis, and life in general — I notice a sense of hopelessness present under our words.
We live in a secular, postmodern world. In many ways, this has benefitted us (yay for technology and science!), but we’ve been thrown off center, as a culture — maybe more than ever. Uprooted from the things that once kept a sense of certainty in place (as illusory and contrived as said certainty may have been).
We don’t have that today. We all live in our very own individual inescapable algorithm now — one that panders to our biases and wants. One that props up our ego ideal and keeps us triggered through just the right ingredients of fear tailor-made for our proclivities.
We used to be able to draw a more definite line between work and home.
We’ve always compared ourselves to our peers, but we used to know these people along with their human foibles and flaws (sure, Dave drove a Porsche, but he was always… sad).
And, the biggie — we used to be able to escape the news cycle. The sheer expense of media unintentionally protected us from every case of human suffering and upheaval on the planet. Now, the news is recorded and shared (and, unfortunately, contrived) cheaply. Our attention is worth more than it ever has been and it’s being leveraged to the hilt.
When I read the gospel of the opening of advent, I feel a sense of the same longing we have today for an escape from apocalyptic times. These apocalyptic times aren’t reserved for some far-off future when some white guy on a horse comes bursting out of the clouds.
If, when you think of an apocalypse, you picture a scary doom-filled punishment from above, you’re not alone. Originally, though, apocalyptic literature existed not to scare the bejeezus out of children so that they would be good boys and girls, but to proclaim a big hope-filled idea: that dominant powers are not ultimate powers. Empires fall. Tyrants fade. Systems die. God’s still around.
— Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber (click to watch)
We’re all on edge. But the only thing that’s really changed has been our technology. The world ‘out there’ is just as apocalyptic as ever. Tyrants and politicians are doing their thing as they always have. Certain subsets of people are being marginalized, mistreated, and forgotten as they always have. Systems are being overturned and replaced as they always have.
We’re just more aware of the play-by-play than we ever have been. And as much stress as it’s brought, our religion — generally speaking — has failed us.
Apocalypse is baked into the human condition. It’s the undying notion of hope amidst a humanity turned in on itself.
The hope that we found in an outside God coming to rescue us has been ripped away and proven to be false. The hope that we once had for a God who was for some of us and against others was great if you placed yourself on the right side of that God. But that God never showed up. And a lot of entitled folks are digging their heels in and getting angry — summoning that God more and more.
The rest of us want nothing to do with that game.
So now what?
What if the hope of God exists as something we internally download rather than an event from an anthropomorphic deity outside of us? What if God has been waiting for us for the same amount of time that we’ve been waiting for God? What if God is something we channel internally rather than something we summon externally?
What if God called for a response from us instead of more begging and pleading by us?
I’m still hopeful. God is still around. The apocalypse is upon us.
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
Instruct this sinner in the way.