Occupy Seattle in Advent

12/11/11 third Sunday in advent.  David Mesenbring’s sermon at St. Mark’s Cathedral about the banks [well, not really about the banks, more about john the Baptist as witness – the word shows up 33 times in john’s gospel after being almost entirely absent from Mathew Mark and Luke] – Occupy Seattle and the question of the cathedral’s (or really, each of us in the cathedral) simply enjoying the reputation of a place of  radical hospitality as opposed to actually living it out. 


The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; God has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor; and the day of  vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion…. [Is 61:1-4]

— words Christ reads to the assembled in Nazareth, offering himself not only as the prophet who proclaims liberty but himself as its embodiment.  The thing itself. 

John: who are you?   A witness to testify to the light. 

What do you say about yourself?

I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’

John the Baptist in the voice of Isaiah as Jesus inhabits the voice of Isaiah as Isaiah inhabits the voice of those who came before him.  Who are you? We ask of John as we ask of those in Occupy Seattle or Wall Street or San Francisco or Moscow or Cairo or Jerusalem.  Who are you? Elijah?  The prophet?  The Messiah?  Let us have an answer for those who sent us.

Are you Elijah?  Meaning what?  An incarnation?  Elijah returned from the dead? 

The ancestors – they are not departed.  We wear their clothes (sometimes literally).  We inhabit their voices, their words, their ways.  They are who we are, we carry them, bear their burdens as they prepare the way for us, for a new revelation, a new and deeper insight (if we do our work) – or simply a new clarification, a new metaphor.

Things come around.

 Jesus carries Isaiah across a threshold with  a new revelation, just as some earlier unnamed sage or prophet added what scholars now call the second and third Isaiah to a previous text.  A New Testament, a new vision born of the old but clarified, deepened, revealed in and through himself – a fulfillment.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Logos “in in fact identical to Chochma/Sophia, Holy Wisdom,” Jesus “as a moshel moshelim (a teacher of Wisdom) rather than the long-expected political Messiah who for two thousand years has been the primary stumbling block to Jewish-Christian reconciliation.  ‘A Wisdom Jesus I would have no problem with!’” Rabbi Rami Shapiro says to Cynthia Bourgeault.

Not a political Messiah?  .  the Lord has anointed me; God has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.  Messiah:  the anointed one.  And it is John’s gospel that highlights the Baptist as precisely a witness to this this Christ, this anointed one.  But the wisdom teacher is the same who proclaims good news to the oppressed, who makes straight the way.  This Logos enfleshed is that way which is a way of love which is a way of absolute alignment with the fundamental facts of the universe. 

Which means justice. 

At the heart of corporate religion is the question of power: Who rules over whom? Writes Rabbi Shapiro; Who rules over whom?  From the priestly tribe of Levites to the priestly class of the Church to the learned rabbis and imams, there is in corporate religious life a hierarchy of power supporting a ruling elite that claims to have a more direct connection to God than the rest of us.  Chochma and Her teachings are a direct challenge to this hierarchy [The Divine Feminine in biblical Wisdom Literature xix]. 

Wisdom in this sense inherently challenges this ownership of power –hence the alignment for thousands of years of this tradition with the [often underground] tradition of radical democracy. From Piers Plowman to the seventeenth century Diggers and Muggletonians to Blake to Dostoevsky’s own radical brand of Christianity which in turn was deeply connected to  a Russian wisdom tradition….  We see this revisioning history that links the Gnostic [meaning gnosis, meaning knowing] with the political and prophetic. 

In short: a new way of seeing  leads to a new way of being.  And what wisdom brings is a new way of seeing.

But this is not simply a matter of an intellectual insight.  It is intended to be embodied – what else is the point of Incarnation?