Bob Cornner

Bob Cornner
Visting St. Andrew's Torrance

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

HOW WOULD WE KNOW IF THE LIGHT REALLY CAME ON CHRISTMAS?



In John's opening words (the prologue) to the Gospel, he says that the darkness has not overcome the light.



Have you ever considered the question of what the world would be like if Jesus had never been born?

If Jesus was truly the incarnation of God, what difference did God's presence with us really make?

Why would God come to be one of us, if at the end of his earthly time with us, nothing had really changed in the darkness of our world?

We may have never formally asked such questions, but have we not all thought, felt, or intuited that such questions need to be at least considered?

What is the darkness that can not cover up the light?

What is the light that the Christ Child brings into the darkness?

These questions I have posed are about God (theology) and about us (anthropology).

John's Gospel makes bold statements about God. God is the one who can break through darkness like a ray from the sun bursting through a small pin hole in a pitch black room. That beam of light is striking and scatters darkness as it makes its way through the darkness.

John declares that Jesus is this sort of light, breaking through the darkness of our human ways. As the light dawns on us, our darkness and our part in it is lit up and we see God and ourselves in a new way.

It is this experience of light that makes the darkness of human sin stand out in sharp contrast to what we could do and who we can be in our relationship to God and to one another.

John offers us an answer to the question, "HOW WOULD WE KNOW IF THE LIGHT REALLY CAME INTO THE WORLD ON CHRISTMAS DAY?

"He was in the world, and the world came into being through him;

yet the world did not know him.

He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.

But to all who received him, who believed in his name,

he gave power to become children of God,

who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man,

but of God."

John is clear that neither the world (non-Jews) nor "his own people" (Jesus' Jewish countrymen)knew him despite the witness of John that he was the creator, light, lamb of God and life of the world.

The final evidence and witness that light has not been overcome by the darkness is found in the light that shines on the faces of those who have declared peace with God and with others and who accept the radical understanding that all of the daughters of Eve and sons of Adam are brothers and sisters under the Fatherhood of God.

We are not children of this tribe or that small family or nation, but of a God who claims us all as his children. By claiming us as his children, God shines light into the darkness of human sin that allows one of his children to deny the humanity and goodness of another one of his children.

The deep darkness would have us believe that God favors some over others and approves of us making war against God's enemies. Today, there are voices within the Christian community and beyond on whom light has dawned. As children of the same Father, they seek to love and serve others as beloved brothers and sisters.

"The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Christmas Letter of Hope to those who are Searching for God




The prophet Jeremiah spoke these words in a time long ago:

Yes, I know what plans I have in mind for you, YAHWEH declares,
plans for peace, not for disaster,
to give you a future and a hope.
When you call to me and come and pray to me,
I shall listen to you.
When you search for me,
you will find me;
when you search wholeheartedly for me,
I shall let you find me . . .
Jeremiah 29:11-14a

What a surprise it is to find God in a baby. If you were God where would you take up residence? This is a fundamental question for us to consider as we come together around the infant Christ on Christmas; sing his praises; hear the dark tones of his future, even as angels and shepherds visit him and announce his birth.

Was the One who creates and sustains all things seen and unseen trying to hide from us when he came to us as a human infant? I believe God entered our world through the body of Mary to open our eyes to God’s presence among us, not to obscure that presence. In tenderness, vulnerability, and love, God is with us. That is the simple and life altering and transforming truth of Christmas.

This infant child of Mary contains our past, present, and future and is the hope that God is in us, as he was in Jesus.

Is that the Good News we celebrate at Christmas?

For me, this Good News grows and expands and takes shape and life in me more and more each year. As we remember God’s promise to be with us (Emmanuel), we trust that, as we gather together this Christmas and throughout the year in service, worship, friendship, and community, God is present with us in ways that offer us times and places to become fully human in God’s heart.

At Jesus’ birth, there were those who saw him as the hope of the world and there were those who saw his birth as a threat. But for most people, Jesus slipped into the world quietly and with little fanfare. This Christmas and everyday, Jesus continues to be born in the obscurity and impossibility of our human flesh and blood.

I invite you to come to the stable of Christ’s birth and witness in hope, the coming of God with us. May you find and celebrate God’s child born in your soul this Holy Christmas season as you share in community the Good News of God’s love and presence with us.

God’s Peace in the Christmas Joy,


Father Bob+

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

BLESSED IS THE FRUIT OF YOUR WOMB




FRUIT WORTHY OF REPENTANCE?

John the Baptist seemed so angry at the mob of people who came out to be baptized by him in the Jordan River. His voice was loud, accusing, and harsh:





"You brood of vipers!

Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance.

Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

Is it possible that Jesus is the "fruit worthy of repentance" that John demanded of the mob? Why had they gone out to see John? John believes that they are running scared. They fear “the wrath to come.” Is this wrath, the wrath of God?

N.T. Wright, the Anglican bishop of Durham and well-respected New Testament scholar has written that the meaning of wrath is best understood historically as “hostile military action.”

When the prophets of Israel spoke of “the wrath to come,” they were not referring to divine fire falling from heaven, but from the brutal exercise of violence by human beings.

*Thomas Hobbes, the 17th century English political philosopher, wrote of wrath in the same way calling it “war of all against all.” For Hobbes, it is not divine wrath that confronts and threatens humanity, but human violence used to claim what others claim. In short, the desire and the decision to take what others have by use of violence.

Those who ran out into the wilderness that surrounded the Jordan River came running from the Roman wrath, believing that because they were “children of Abraham,” God would exercise his greater violence against the Romans on their behalf and destroy the Gentile scourge.

In John’s understanding, the claim on God’s power to destroy anyone because of some special relationship with God, was simply and completely wrong. He calls them a brood of vipers slithering towards the river to avoid the fire of Roman wrath exercised by the Roman military.

John could smell their fear. Such fear was not the fruit that was capable of repenting or turning towards God and away from the violence of humanity. His demand that they “bear fruit worthy of repentance,” must have been confusing and incomprehensible to the mob.

Their only solution to their problem was violent retaliation against Rome or anyone else who stood in their way. Due to their lack of military might, their solution of violence was beyond their reach and so they hoped that God would scorch the Romans for them.

Victims often pray for vindication against those who oppress them. If you read the Psalms and many other parts of the Old Testament, you can hear this prayer against the enemies of Israel.

John preaches a different path and offers a way through the dirty waters of the Jordan. The mob will indeed bear fruit worthy of repentance. Jesus, their native son, will be the fruit of generations of Jews. Jesus’ family tree is at one with the larger tree of Israel and according to Luke, stretches back beyond Israel to the very beginning of human kind.

Jesus, then, is the fruit from the human tree that his mother, Mary will bring into the world. Jesus is the One who is handed over to this fearful mob at the Jordan and again in Jerusalem. It is Jesus who is capable (worthy) of changing (repentance) from the old ways of violence to God’s way of love and reconciliation.

John says that this One who is to come is the one who will baptize this mob with fire and the Holy Spirit. Jesus was handed over to the mob and the mob did what mobs always do. His body was laid in a garden tomb as a seed from a new fruit is buried in the soil in hopes of a larger harvest of the same delicious fruit.

This is where the fire and the Holy Spirit came down—in the soil of the mob where the seed of Christ has been planted. The Tree of Humanity and the grace of God combined to produce “fruit worthy of repentance.”

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Bless art thou among women and blessed in the fruit of your womb, Jesus.” AMEN!


* De Cive by Thomas Hobbes (1651)
“War of All against All”
Chapter One
Of the state of men without Civill Society http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/en/decive1.htm

XII. “If now to this naturall proclivity of men, to hurt each other, which they derive from their Passions, but chiefly from a vain esteeme of themselves: You adde, the right of all to all, wherewith one by right invades, the other by right resists, and whence arise perpetuall jealousies and suspicions on all hands, and how hard a thing it is to provide against an enemy invading us, with an intention to oppresse, and ruine, though he come with a small Number, and no great Provision;. it cannot be deny'd but that the naturall state of men, before they entr'd into Society, was a meer War, and that not simply, but a War of all men, against all men; for what is WAR, but that same time in which the will of contesting by force, is fully declar'd either by Words, or Deeds? The time remaining, is termed PEACE.”

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

RETURNING TO YOUR HOLY PLACE


"Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height; look toward the east, and see your children gathered from west and east at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remembered them."

In our reading from the prophet, Baruch, which we will hear this Sunday, the Holy city of Jerusalem is pictured almost like a parent or grandparent whose children and grandchildren have been kidnapped and who, by the grace of God, are now returning home, safe and unharmed.

Where is your Holy Place and when and how did you leave it?

When you are young, the people, sights, sounds, smells, and experiences in which you are raised form a Holy Place of return. In my case, Coffeyville, Kansas was my Jerusalem.

My extended family lived in Coffeyville and they deeply lamented and grieved with great sobs and tears on the day my parents packed up our 1953 Studebaker Land Cruiser with trailer attached and headed west to Los Angeles.

I remember vividly this moment of leaving. My Grandmother Odessa and Aunt Polly cried and waved their small cotton handkerchiefs while my Uncle Cal and Granddad Bill McBean stood by, not able to express their grief at our leaving.

Children and grandchildren are very special to parents and grandparents. They represent a future that lies beyond the presence of the previous generation. Children and grandchildren are holy, set aside by reason of birth and family ties, to be our future.

Baruch captures this powerful movement of holy children leaving their holy place. Jerusalem, that holy place of a particular people, particular sights, particular sounds, particular smells, and particular experiences has been invaded and conquered. The population has been deported, leaving only the empty city behind.

The prophet speaks to the city of Jerusalem as if she was someone like my Grandmother Odessa and tells her to take off that old dress she has been wearing since her children were stolen from her. He calls this dress, “the garment of your sorrow and affliction.”

The prophet then tells Mother Jerusalem to put on a new robe. This robe he calls “righteousness that comes from God.” Sounds like a strange name for a robe, doesn’t it? But it is the prophet’s way of describing that it is God who makes things truly holy and special.

It is God, whose children have been taken into exile and who are now returning. It is God who disguised as Mother Jerusalem waits with joy and gladness as her children move from east and west toward the great reunion with one another and their Holy Place in which God is somehow most completely experienced as their Shalom, the peace and unity of hearts, minds, and bodies that does not require violence to create or maintain.

The prophet wrote:

“For they went out on foot, led by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you (Mother Jerusalem), carried in glory, as on a royal throne.”
Where is your Holy Place (Mother Jerusalem) in which God seemed so present in your childhood and from which you have either left or been taken by circumstances of your choices?

Who is the prophet that is calling you back to the Holy One who makes you and all of us holy?

What seems to be missing from your life and calls you to a pilgrimage in search of the Holy where shalom and unity can be found?

I discovered sometime during my time of heeding the prophet’s words to return to the Holy Place of my youth, that God was creating in my life that which is holy. My journey is not over, but I have discovered that Coffeyville is not really my final destination, but a reminder of a hope that keeps me moving towards God.

During this Holy Time of Advent, let us dedicate ourselves to more faithfully coming together as fellow pilgrims on the path to our common Holy Place of peace and unity with God and one another. Let us deepen our prayer lives and open our hearts to others and as we do, we will know more and more the Peace of God which passes all human understanding and the Holy Place in which we live.

God's Peace in Prayer and Giving,
Bob+