Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent: Week One, and an Art Project

I've been working on a really bizarre art piece in ceramics inspired by a line from mewithoutYou's song, "Cattail Down," from their album It's all crazy! It's all false! It's all a dream! It's alright. Don't ask me to explain the piece, but the text covering the stump (the letter stamps were hand-carved from plaster) quotes the line, "You're everyone else," which is repeated over and over and over again throughout the song (a total of 49 times).

Here are a few pictures. It's not entirely finished. But I took photos because I'm fairly certain it won't survive the kiln.

Also, today marks the first Sunday of Advent. Alyssa and I have been working on our Jesse tree, and tonight's symbol happens to be the tree itself. The scripture comes from the prophecy (albeit out-of-context) that "predicts" the coming of the messiah (ie. Jesus) from Jesse's family.

The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’ Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.’ And the Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you, and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.’ Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, ‘Do you come peaceably?’ He said, ‘Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.’ And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these.’ Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
1 Samuel  16:1-13 

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord3His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; 4but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. 6The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. 7The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 9They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.10On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
Isaiah 11:1-10

I don't really believe that these prophecies are necessarily speaking directly about Jesus. But that doesn't really matter. If you're looking through these prophecies simply to say, "Look! Jesus!" you're missing the point. These stories--in their proper context--are about hope. Hope that God is working out a way to "put things to rights," as our friend N.T. Wright says. 

And so begins the Advent season. The first (and, I would argue, most important) season on the Christian calendar. It is a time of expectation and heartfelt yearning. A time when, according to Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro, we are to serve as midwives for a groaning Creation struggling to give birth to something new. As we enter into this favorite season of mine, I would urge you to follow me in this exploration of what it means to hope for something--even if it is vague or fleeting. 

Alyssa and I have been caught in the doldrums lately. We're stuck in a place where we don't feel very useful or appreciated, and we can't move forward on our dreams of setting up Anavah House until we wrap up what seems like mere busy work here. 

If there was no hope, we would have given up months ago--because it's simply not worth it. We've been so run down by the daily grind ("the refrigerator hum," Rob Bell calls it), that we've had little reason to leave the apartment lately.

But something big is coming. In one of my favorite episodes of M*A*S*H, Father Mulcahy writes to his sister (a nun) at Christmas something to the effect of, "It's hard, Sis, when you're running from one disaster to the next. The trick is to keep moving." 

The hope is in the motion. 

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