Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Seeds of Jerusalem

[I prepared the following for my monthly article in the December 2006 issue of The Good News, St. Alban's monthly newsletter.]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On November 9, the newly formed LA Clergy Association hosted a Pre-Advent Day of Refreshment and Renewal. Our keynote speaker was the Right Reverend Mark MacDonald, Bishop of Alaska and Navajoland. The focus of his talk was on the shifts in missiology (the theology of doing mission). One of the key shifts that Bishop MacDonald discussed is that we need to be aware that God is present and working in society. With so many problems in our world, we often forget that God is alive and well and at work in the world. This is nowhere more apparent than in our own backyard. In a place like Los Angeles, with its emphasis on image and perfection (and the creation of the illusion of the same), it is easy to question where and how God can be in the midst of such unrealistic images and fantasies.

As Bishop MacDonald pointed out, how could there be so much creativity and so much influence on society if there were not holiness here? There is a sacredness in this place that allows us to flourish in that creativity. There is a sacredness in this place that allows us to influence the rest of the world. He terms this sacredness the seeds of Jerusalem – the holy city of God. Every city, even ours, has within it these seeds of Jerusalem. But, at the same time, every city also contains within it the seeds of Babylon – the power of the secular world that attempt to deny and even destroy the sacredness that is inherent in God’s creation. Our job, as the people of God, is to uncover the seeds of Jerusalem and to allow the sacredness to flourish in our midst.

How do we do that? By believing and even expecting that God is indeed present in the world around us, and by pointing out where God is in our midst. Our job is to help people to see God where they least expect it. And what better place for that to happen than at the doorstep of UCLA – a world-renowned institution dedicated to the discovery of truth and knowledge? Here at St. Alban’s we have to the opportunity to offer an alternative perspective on the truth, the truth that God is in our midst and active in the world around us. Faith and Reason – it’s not just the name of our educational program, it’s a challenge, even a mandate, for how we approach our relationship with UCLA and the rest of Los Angeles. It is the unique perspective that we bring as the people of God, charged with pointing out God’s presence in the world around us.

As we face yet another Advent season, a time of preparation for the coming of God incarnate, the Christ, into the world, let us be aware that he is already in the world. What we need to be doing is preparing ourselves not for his coming, but to recognize him in the midst of our everyday lives. It may take some doing, but if we look hard enough, we will find him. And when we become more proficient in being able to recognize him in our own lives, we will be in a better position to help others recognize him too.

I wish you a blessed Advent, filled with the joy of discovery of God and Christ in your midst.

Yours in Christ,
(The Rev.) Michael Fincher

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