From the Desk of Rev. Jeff

Dear St. Paul’s,

I was asked this poignant question after a sermon: “It’s great that we should love everyone, but what does that mean?” I would hazard a guess that it has to do with how we treat each other. It’s about how we care for others and ourselves. It’s a mutual commitment to being good to one another. It has a lot to do with how we listen to each other, and what we do when we find out something is broken in our relationships. 

Right now, we’re in the thick of the choice of what to do with difficult things to hear about broken relationships in our society. With the Harvey Weinstein scandals that led to the #MeToo movement, there’s a lot of new conversation about “-isms”: Racism, sexism, genderism, classism, etc. For some that topic is exciting and worth addressing. For others, the very mention of these isms turns the stomach. I find myself feeling both reactions!

What is the breakdown in relationship that all these “isms” result from? I think Jimi Hendrix summed it up well when he said it was the case of the love of power triumphing over the power of love. From my vantage point, everything about “isms” seems to be the result of some imbalance or misuse of power. Using one’s power to hurt someone else or take power away from them. This doesn’t sound like love. Misuse of sex, money, politics, religion, these are some of the many ways we have the potential to use power to harm others for our advantage.

It is that very misuse of power to which the story of Advent and the Incarnation point. The hope for a messiah was the hope for the balancing out of power. This hope asks an answer to the question, “In the face of violence, hate, and fear, where can love be found?” The One for whom we hope is one who teaches us to use power to help others. To restore broken relationships. To confront one another when we do something wrong, all the while seeing the dignity of God in the other.

If overcoming “isms” is the basis for the hope that is the origin of our beloved community, then it makes sense to explore how Jesus directs us to look closer at the hope that is in us. Through this we begin to find what love has to say about how to replace these “isms” with grace. I’ll be teaching a short Advent series in December exploring what love and grace have to say about power and how it is used.

I understand grace to be empowerment to achieve more than we could on our own. I think grace is the solution to power imbalance and is a key component of love. In light of this, I propose an Advent practice to go along with this. Let’s ask ourselves a few questions:

1) Where is grace in our lives?
2) How are we givers of grace?
3) How are we receivers of grace?
4) Where is God in our relationships, especially in terms of how we share and use power?
5) God brings for us the ultimate source of grace in the most powerless way: a peasant baby in a feeding trough for barn animals. In what ways does this choice by God speak to how we see power?

May we grow in our understanding and use of power to prepare the way for God’s kingdom of love, as John the Baptist reminds us. Do please join us Wednesday nights Dec. 6th, 13th, and 20th from 6:30pm-8pm in the Parish Hall for a potluck discussion. Blessings to you this Advent Season!

Rev. Jeffrey A. Dodge