to do the Advent thing, I thought last Saturday night as my husband and I
prepared to study the Annunciation passage with an adult ed class. My mind went
to the hope that I'd be able to get away for a day or two this Advent season and
do some hiking, reflection and prayer at a retreat center.
On a Sunday when John the Baptist's call
for repentance roars in our ears, we need reminders of the precedence of
gift, the prevenience of grace. For John's sermonic cry to "prepare the
way of the Lord" can seem all task and no gift. It calls out the Pelagian in all
of us, the voluntarist who wants to build the kingdom. Careless hearing leads
us to imagine that if we "make his paths straight," he will come.
The Fetzer Institute and StoryCorps are sponsoring the third
annual National Day of Listening
this Friday. The idea is to inspire people to listen to the stories of their
friends, families and neighbors. StoryCorps offers a free guide to gathering
stories, including a list of questions.
On this second Sunday of Advent, perhaps the paraments should be red rather than blue or purple. Red has become our Holy Spirit hue, the liturgical color that accompanies occasions of heightened concentration on pneumatological presence and power. Hanging red isn't like firing a signal flare, as if the Spirit has suddenly been glimpsed after a long absence or concealment.
A study of HIV-positive men and women showed that those who engaged in spiritual practices had a two to four times greater chance of survival than those who didn’t. The researchers began interviewing people at the mid-stage of their disease. The researchers asked participants whether they prayed, meditated, went to religious services, were grateful to God for what they had, or believed that God could forgive them for wrongdoing. The findings showed that the way people focus on the meaning of life and relate to God can affect health, even in the case of HIV. Roughly one-fifth of the participants engaged in “positive spiritual reframing” of their disease, seeing it as a way God was using them, for example. These people had a survival rate four times greater than that of the others (Atlantic, May 6).