Posted by Mark Beckwith on November 29, 2010
Thanksgiving dinner has hardly been digested, and Advent announces itself. Advent is the season for waiting, for preparation and for getting ready. I don't feel ready to get ready; the preparation list seems daunting -- and the punishing pace of the season twists "wait" into a forbidden four-letter word. Enter Paul's letter to the Ephesians. I have added this Epistle to my preparation list. And I have invited people across the diocese and beyond to add it to theirs. Part of the good news is that the letter is mercifully short. It is beautiful prose. The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge called it "one of the divinest compositions of man (sic)." So we can take it slowly -- and allow the combination of prose, Spirit, beauty and brevity to speak to the soul. Let it not be a task, but a way to enter into the season. "To the saints," Paul begins, and by saints he means us. Not just some of us. All of us. I don't think Paul is trying to flatter his audience. He says saints because he means saints. So ponder your sainthood. The goodness which has been given us -- and the giftedness that marks us. We are blessed. Through no fault of our own we are saints. Most of the time it seems that Christian theology asks us to sort through our sinfulness. Paul opens by identifying our saintliness. I invite you to deal with that. "Grace to you and peace." I think he means that as well. I want to greet people with that same graciousness. And it doesn't always work. It certainly didn't this afternoon when I spent an hour trying to get across the George Washington Bridge. Let's just say that I didn't greet every other driver with a warm and open heart. A couple of years ago I was remarking in a parish forum about the challenges of driving in New Jersey. Not just the driving part, but the etiquette part. One woman said that whenever she got cut off on the road, she responded with "go in peace to love and serve the Lord." I had a hard time believing her, and so I asked how long it took for her to say that. She indicated that she said it right away. Still not believing her, I asked her with what tone did she use when she said it. "As if I mean it", she replied. She was able to pass on the grace that had been given to her. Grace begets grace. Now there is an Advent challenge.