Archive for December, 2017

Sancta Viscera Track 6: Don oíche úd i mBeithil

Sancta Viscera Track 5: Nunc Dimittis

“Prepare ye the Way of the Lord,” (Sermon, December 10 2017)

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight” ’,
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

Mark 1:1-8


“Prepare ye the way of the Lord, prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

These words are so familiar to us that they may have lost some of their power. The idea of prophecy itself may seem archaic, weird, maybe dangerous. We might think of some of the stuff we’ve been hearing about end times, about the moon turning to blood or plagues of locusts. Prophecy to us often means the ability to predict the future, which is not actually a full understanding of the word or the concept, because in Jesus’ time prophets were known as much for telling the present as the future – and speaking truth to power, saying that all was not as it should be, was what usually got them in trouble.

“Prepare ye the way of the Lord, prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

John the Baptizer doesn’t help matters. Do you ever stop and think about the kind of image he actually cut? I feel like in church we often think of him with an odd sort of affection – wacky uncle Jack with the weird clothes and the funny quips. But really, think about it. Aesthetically speaking, he probably had more in common with…well, a homeless guy. Camel’s hair coats and leather belts sound kind of rustic and charming to us, but to the people of ancient Palestine, they were less charming and more utilitarian. Like a guy who dons hundreds of layers so the cold won’t bite so hard and the damp won’t sink so deep, because when you live outside you’ve got to fight both or they’ll kill you; when you live outside you have to keep everything you own with you at all times if you want to keep it at all.

John the Baptizer, howling in the wilderness, the kind of person that most folks would probably avoid. The peasants don’t, because he had more in common with them. Poverty makes for strange and beautiful friendships. It can also make for some real insight into what’s important for the soul – not in a sentimental way, but in a raw, inelegant way that tends to be imposed and is therefore not so much a spiritual gift as a survival mechanism, hard-won wisdom borne out of heavy burdens.

And yet it is right in the centre of this colonial bondage that the path of light is being laid, brick by brick.

“Prepare ye the way of the Lord, prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

Advent is a time for us to remember that the path is always laid here: in places of subjugation, places of pain and oppression, places of corruption and decay.

Not because God wishes for anyone to remain in that state, or sentimentalize it, or minimize it.

Because God wishes for us to go there, because that is where She chose to be born.

Not in a palace. Not in a mansion. Not in a golden tower.

On a byway, in occupied territory.

In the wilderness, to refugees, to colonially enslaved people.

She is still being born there. This year I enter into Advent with new memories. In January I was in Bethlehem, occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank. The Church of the Nativity – appropriately both beautiful and rather shabby – presides over much of the city, but further down the wall has curved in, splitting the main road in half and blocking Christians and Muslims from devotions at the Tomb of Rachel. Beautiful protest art covers the wall at that particular section, which we approached with great caution. Our guides warned us that if we got too close and were seen by the guards in the tower above, we ran the risk of being sprayed with tear gas from jets set right into the concrete.

There were several large posters with reflections from locals about what Christmas in Bethlehem had been like before the wall went up. One poster included lyrics from a Danish carol:

Jesus, love down the wall

And bring peace to Bethlehem.

“Prepare ye the way of the Lord, prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

The way of the Lord is not the way of our world, not the way of violence, tyranny, oppression; not the way of war and walls.

The way of the Lord is not the way of class or station, or racism, or sexism, or homophobia, or hate crimes, or murder, or environmental degradation, or bullying.

The way of the Lord is not the way of riches or family values or meritocracy.

It is a reckless way, a narrow way of wide open hearts, a way of truth-telling and welcoming and forgiving and letting go and constant personal transformation, a way of purposeful release, intentional divestment of all that is not conducive to life and love – not the sanitized love of a Hallmark Christmas special but what I’ll call, for lack of a better word, wildfire love.

This is why the words of John can seem so harsh to us. John, the messenger, the prophet, needs us to know how important this is. This is a holy movement, in every sense of the word. Why would you not want to be a part of it: a sacred dance that is big enough for every created being to join in, a sacred dance of eagles and angels and cedar trees and oceans and polar bears and mountains and people, all colours, all creeds, all bodies.

If you don’t get onboard, you don’t just risk mild annoyance. You risk your spiritual health. Repentance can sound judgemental, but it just means “turning around,” re-orienting yourself, re-centering your heart, your soul, your mind on God – the Source of Life and Love.

It can feel impossible. It can be easy to forget. How could it not be when we turn on the TV or look at our phones and see a world full of mistakes and wilful ignorance and apathy and just plain evil. We might think that God isn’t listening, or maybe isn’t even there, and it’s okay to feel that way – that’s why we were given the gift of hope, and that’s why we celebrate Advent over and over, every year.

It can be so to forget because wildfire love isn’t easy.

It’s probably the hardest thing in the world.

I have to say it because in this church we are family and there should be honesty in families.

But all of you are here for a purpose, and God has chosen you for wildfire love – and just like we learn as little children at Christmastime, it’s not only about receiving, it’s about giving.

As hard as wildfire love is – and both receiving and giving can be difficult for different reasons – the church has given us tools and gifts to help us.

So I invite you, beloved, wherever you’re at in life physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually, to open yourself to the wildfire love that is all around you. Do it in silence. Do it with friends or family or precious ones. Let it fill you up, and when you are filled, allow it to spill over and out of you.

Become a channel, like John, for the Holy Spirit of truth.

And if you’re like me and you prefer the concrete to the metaphysical, the church has you covered there too. Come forward and receive the body of our Lord, the one who is coming into the world. Imagine it as love, nourishing you, filling you, radiating from you, showing you the way to be to each other and the world.

Imagine it as love, because that is what it is.

And this is only the smallest taste of what is in store when Christ comes again.

“Prepare ye the way of the Lord, prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

Sancta Viscera Track 4: Little Sister Mary

Sancta Viscera Track 3: Wild Space

Sancta Viscera Track 2: Phos Hilaron

Sancta Viscera Advent Devotional Music Project

In 2016 I decided to try a totally new form of devotionals for the season of Lent: recording an album. I did so with only the tools I had at hand: my house, my instruments, my voice, my USB microphone, and my laptop.

The result was the album The Path of Ashes, which you can listen to here.

I fell in love with the process, and decided to do the same thing for Advent of that year. By then my skills had developed (at least a little), and I produced a more polished piece called Wild Star, which you can listen to here.

I followed that project up with a second Lenten album in Lent of 2017, Pilgrim Song, which you can catch here. This time I did it with a digital drum kit, and became even more excited with the results.

I’m closing out the year with Sancta Viscera, and just released the first track today here.

I will continue to share the tracks with y’all as they come out, which they will twice a week. I invite you to make this a part of your Advent devotionals if you like. Follow along on this blog, through Twitter, or through my fan page on Facebook!

It is offered freely, to the glory of God and for the work of the church. Physical copies of the previous albums (and eventually this one) are offered by donation with 100% of proceeds going to the church where I am stationed. If you’d like a copy of any of the previous albums, please give me a shout!