Throughout the forty months of this year, I’ve experienced the anti-racist teaching of Ibram Kendi as a prophetic word that has plucked-up and pulled down, built and planted new things within me and my church community. At CAPC Oakland, a small group has been meeting Monday nights to work on learning to better see how we’ve learned to envision each other (and ourselves) through the dominant cultural lens of whiteness. We wrestle together with becoming more deeply anti-racist in choosing, enacting, and building equality in all the ways in which we are different – not merely settling for the “normal” that we were taught or inherited. I often leave the confessions, tears, and discoveries of our Zoom conversations with the sense of having been on holy ground as we trust each other with our intimate thoughts, of seeing deeper and wider, of having tasted the transformative action of God’s saving love.
We live in a time in which our body is divided over elections results, politics, the reality of a pandemic, racial reckoning and what equality actually means. At a first glance, our division can seem as if we just need to forgive and move on. Yet looking deeper, under the surface we can glimpse that we are divided about the notion and nature of truth, and also about trust: who is and isn’t worthy of it. We are a people struggling under the weight of change and the realization of what has always been. The bodies in which we move and have our being are suffering from an endemic of division whether civic, faith, familial, or physical.
Advent is the active waiting for the Messiah’s triumphal coming to reconcile all peoples to God and to each other: to make all things new. Today’s scriptures all speak to this dynamic of transformation, deliverance, and newness. They are punctuated with language about the body (hands, mouths, feet) and the physical world (land, the womb, Antioch). Here is a God that enters into our life, our realm, our bodies. Here is a God who acts and speaks and calls us to agency. What was first called God’s land becomes the land of the people. Paralyzed by fear of his vocation, Jeremiah is sent to the nations with authority to call others to God. The ancient city of Antioch, first described as a place of Jews and Gentiles, becomes the paragon of Church where disparate people are unified as one body. They are set apart by their work of recognizing the marginalized and hungry, and there called “Christians” by those that witness the truth of their unity. It’s as if they are little Christs living in a holy way wholly set apart from what seems normal.
The poet, prophet and evangelist all tell the story of salvation – which is more a process than an act, a transforming deliverance, setting us free from the old ways of assimilation and segregation for a new normal of equality and agency, from division to unity, from fear to trust. This saving process is what we’ve been experiencing in our Race Matters small group. Each Monday we discover the depth of the truth and how it both sets us free and makes all things new: conforming our lives more and more to that of Jesus the Christ, as little Christs. Our waiting for Jesus is also tied up in our becoming more and more like him, together, in our community, action and bodies. That’s the spiritual truth of Advent.