Sunday, November 23, 2008

A bit of Mark, A bit of Isaiah

I was reading the Gospel of John, then I read this Sunday's Gospel reading from Mark (the one we'll hear the first Sunday in Advent). That wasn't enough apocalyptic Bible reading for me, so I went to Isaiah.

I'm one of those strange people who really likes that we get a dose of apocalypse as the rest of the nation gears up for its annual spending frenzy. Of course, this year, with grim and grimmer economic news each day, some eschatological reading seems to fit right in. Everyone I know feels impoverished, especially when they look at their retirement accounts.

But I remember those men (and the few women) from the dinner at First Lutheran on Wednesday night. There's nothing like sharing a meal with those who have nothing to put life in perspective. I think of them as I'm getting ready for Thanksgiving and Advent. Sharing a meal with them, and later prayers with them, made me realize how fortunate I am. When I pray, I don't pray that I be able to find food tomorrow. I don't suffer that kind of food scarcity. No, I'm lucky. I wish we could all be that lucky.

I think back to my younger self. When I was twenty-one, I decided I was ready for more spiritual discipline, so I decided to fast one day a week, in solidarity with the world's poor (yes, I really was that earnest). I wasn't very good at it. But it did remind me how quickly one goes from niggling hunger to ravenous, and how hard it is to concentrate with no food in one's stomach. Those hunger pains did remind me to pray for the poor. My relief at being able to break my fast made my heart break for all those people who can't fill their tummies so easily.

Maybe it's time to think of my Advent discipline. We think of Lent as a time for discipline, but Advent works just as well. There's so much in our culture, waiting to distract us. Advent is a season of watching and waiting, and we need some discipline to keep our minds focused.

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