waiting for Jesus – an Advent-season-prayer-a-day, Day 21, Saturday, December 23, 2017

Note: Advent, from the Latin, adventus, “coming”, is the Christian season of preparation for Jesus’ birth, the heart of the Christmas celebration, and, according to scripture and the Christian creeds, his second appearance on some future, unknown day and also according to scripture and Christian tradition, his daily coming through the Holy Spirit. Hence, the theme of waiting for Jesus is Advent’s clarion call.

O Lord Jesus, I wait this day for the wonder of Your Wholeness; You in Whom “the fullness of the deity dwells bodily.”(1)

Though made in the imago Dei, I, in my sinfulness and sins, my scattered thoughts and feelings, my self-centered intentions and actions, sully the glorious semblance of divinity in which I have been created.

O Lord Jesus, by Your Spirit, I pray You refashion my mind and my heart, my soul and my spirit, my being entire that Your Apostle’s word may be true for me, will be true in me; that I come to the measure of Your full stature.(2)



(1) Colossians 2.9
(2) Ephesians 4.13

on sin & evil

In these immediate post-Charlottesville days, the air is filled with two words: sin and evil. (As I recollect, the same was not true following the August 9, 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown, a black teenager, at the hands of Darren Wilson, a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri; but I digress.)

As I listen and read, it occurs to me that the application of these terms is dependent on where one stands, one’s foundational and formative worldview, that fundamental lens through which one perceives and understands reality. It also occurs to me that most often most speakers and writers employ “sin” and “evil” without definition, leaving me to labor to intuit their intent.

Speaking always and only for myself, I am a Christian who believes in God, as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth through the eternal Spirit, as unconditional Love (generosity, magnanimity) and Justice (equality, impartiality) for all, always and in all ways.

Therefore, for me, the word sin, derived from the Greek hamartia, meaning, “missing the mark”, conjures the image of an archer whose arrows (figuratively, one’s aims and aspirations) fall short of the bullseye of the target; a metaphor, in Christian theological nomenclature, for God, the source, the center of life and, in existential terms, for authentic, faithful living that is true to the purpose of one’s creation, which is to be loving and just.

Poneros, one of the Greek words for evil, interestingly, I think, originally was associated with the exhaustion of long and hard work so to be no longer fit or functional (for example, a HVAC system that breaks down, its warranty expired, and replacement parts no longer available, which Pontheolla and I had to replace recently; but I digress!). Poneros, when imbued with an ethical dimension regarding human behavior, connotes thoughts and feelings, intentions and actions that are not godly, not loving and just.

In the light and shadow of Charlottesville, again, speaking always and only for myself, this is non-exhaustive (painfully, sorrowfully, doubtlessly to be continued) list of sins and evils:

  • anti-Semitism
  • bigotry
  • hate crimes
  • hatred
  • homophobia
  • Ku Klux Klan
  • misanthropy
  • misogyny
  • neo-Nazism
  • prejudice
  • racism
  • terrorism (foreign and domestic)
  • violence
  • white (or any other color) nationalism
  • white (or any other color) supremacy

the sin of blame, redux

In my blog post yesterday (the sin of blame), I closed with my prayer that the coming national conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties would be empty of pointed fingers of reproach and recrimination and filled with words and deeds of positive resolution to the difficulties facing America and the world.

Last night, John Mark Burns, a South Carolina evangelical Christian televangelist and pastor, closed the first night of the Republican convention with the following:

Hello, Republicans! I’m Pastor Mark Burns from the great state of South Carolina! I’m gonna pray and I’m gonna give the benediction. And you know why? Because we are electing a man in Donald Trump who believes in the name of Jesus Christ. And Republicans, we got to be united, because our enemy is not other Republicans, but is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

Let’s pray together. Father God, in the name of Jesus, Lord, we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We’re thankful that you are guiding him, that you are giving him the words to unite this party, this country, that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united. Because we are the United States of America, and we are the conservative party under God.

To defeat every attack that comes against us, protect the life of Donald Trump. Give him the words, give him the peace, give him the power and authority to be the next president of the United States of America. In Jesus’ name. If you believe it, shout “Amen!”

In my realm of reason, my universe of understanding, to beseech that one you support be granted “words”, “peace”, “power and authority” is one thing. It is another thing to vilify others as “enemies”, impugning their aims as “keep(ing) us divided and not united”, who, notwithstanding they are those you do not support, also are citizens of the United States of America.

For me, this is the kind of unambiguously, unabashedly partisan political and sectarian prayer that misses the mark of prudent and benevolent discernment, thus giving politics and prayer a bad name.

the sin of blame

The Lord God called to the man, saying, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked and I hid myself.” God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”[1]

The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (c. 1426) Masaccio (ne Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Simone) (1401-1428)

According to the Genesis story, the first act of the first humans, first having defied God’s will, was to deny all, any responsibility for their actions; the man blaming the woman, the woman blaming the serpent, and both blaming God, explicitly and implicitly, respectively. So it seems that a chief manifestation of human sin[2] is to shirk accountability, pointing a finger of reproach somewhere else at something or someone else.

July 5-17. In the dizzying, disorienting heart-rending spin of thirteen days, two black men were shot and killed during encounters with police and two black men, with declarations of retaliation, in separate incidents of ambush, killed five and three police officers. These tragic events are microcosmic elements of the American dis-ease of strained, estranged race relations, particularly in regard to the police community.

Today, the Republican National Convention begins in Cleveland; a week later, in Philadelphia, the Democratic National Convention. I will watch and listen, praying mightily to see and hear deeds and words of prescience and prudence, reason and respect in relation to race and the myriad of difficulties facing the nation and the world. For the last thing I believe we need is the first thing the first humans did when confronted by God.


Illustration: The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (c. 1426) Masaccio (ne Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Simone) (1401-1428)


[1] Genesis 3.9-13, emphases mine.

[2] I define sin (from the Greek hamartia, literally “missing the mark”) as our innate human propensity, whether involving an individual or a family, a clan or a tribe, a community or a society, a people or a nation, to exercise our self-will in self-(often selfishly)interested ways  that violate a right (holy, wholesome, healthy) relationship with God, others, and ourselves.