Sunday, December 13, 2009

Third Sunday of Advent -- In the Desert, Finding Hope

Fr. Y's sermon today was just what I needed to hear. It's interesting how sermons can be like that. Clergy prepare sermons for the congregation as a whole, yet each member hears it in his own particular way.

In a nutshell, the sermon was about being in a spiritual desert. The characteristics of that desert are dryness, disconnectedness, feeling lost, and hopelessness. The way out of the desert is to turn our attention to God and His promises to us. I'll add more detail to this below.

We were given a bit of homework afterward. Three questions were posed, which I'll answer here on the blog.

1. Think about the last time you were wandering in a spiritual desert. In what ways were you challenged?

Readers of this blog are familiar with my last trip through the desert, which was this past summer. In fact, the desert was the birthplace of the blog. In hindsight, I was in an unhealthy relationship with my last priest. Not sensational like an affair, but destructive all the same. When the friendship fell apart, I lost my pastor, spiritual director and church community as well. It was a distressing and confusing time. There had been red flags and people who had warned me to step back, but I didn't heed the warnings. When there was finally a irreparable break and the need to go to a new church, I realized that while I didn't worship Fr. X, I did allow my friendship with him and its ups and downs (more and more "downs", in time) to interfere with my relationship with the worshiping community and with God.

2. How did God work through your spiritual desert time to bring you to a deeper understanding of Him? How were you changed?

I realized that God had to allow that friendship to end. There could be nothing that separated me from Him in my life. I had to allow God to lead me to an unknown place, a new church, and trust that He would help me and my family adjust. I found that I could focus more on my husband, family, friends, others in the congregation, and God Himself when I wasn't so worried about "What would Fr. X think?" God allowed me to experience the hardship, yet as St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:13, He was faithful and showed "with the testing he will also provide the way out," so that I was able to endure it. This experience showed me the danger of allowing any one person so much control over my spiritual life. Only God has the right to that much influence over my being.

3. Share with someone one thing you can do to participate in God's activity in your family, at work or in the community.

I will seek ways, as wife, mother and grandmother (and godparent) to nurture the faith journey of my family. I could list more things, but the assignment does say "one thing", and right now family is at the top of my list.

The sermon also included a list of Bible verses to read while one is traveling in the desert:
  • dryness: Isaiah 12:13
  • disconnectedness: Zephaniah3:17
  • feeling lost: Zephaniah3:20
  • hopelessness: Philippians 4:4
Advent is about expectation. We eagerly await to celebrate the birth of our Savior. As we do so, let's remember that God moves powerfully in this world. He restores. He revives. He resets. He renews.

But he works through us. So we are challenged. What will we do? What will I do?

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