SETTING NEW PRIORITIES – IN SACRED SPACE First Week in the Time of Preparation
There have been few times when we needed more to renew our spirit. A defeated, fearful, angry, disappointed spirit is not good for anything: for families, for young people deciding on their future, for those already suffering from stress, for those facing real threats against them and their families. Six more dreamers committed suicide in Illinois this week – our prayers and our support must be with all of these young people. We must show them an alternative.
I can’t give you a blue print today for rolling back what has happened to us, to the nation, - but I know that we must first get our spirit right or we will not survive. We will not be able to see what is possible for us if we do not keep all the teachings of the Lord in front of us, if we don’t think with faith and courage..
If you have a case coming up this week in deportation court, that court date becomes your priority. Yet if it is only a few weeks away, you have other priorities. That is shortsighted. Today is the day to reset your priorities – to put the people and the Lord first! Today is the first step in renewing our spirits and our movement.
We have been blessed in our ministry for many years with a spiritual process that begins again and renews our spirit each year. In scripture today, we focus first on Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist.
Zechariah was one of the workers in the temple. One day, he was confronted with the angel Gabriel who told him his elderly wife, named Elizabeth, would give birth to a prophet who would prepare the way for the coming of Jesus. This prophet would turn the people back to God. He would “turn parents towards their children and the disobedient towards the wisdom of the righteous” so that the people would be prepared for the Lord.
Our ministry has confirmed again and again the intervention of the Lord in our affairs – igniting a people in unity, in love and in the struggle for justice. We have seen the Spirit of the Lord spread from a few to many, lifting them up, protecting them and giving them both wisdom and courage. We have learned that while politics is the art of the possible, faith is the realization of what politicians say is im-possible.
Faith requires us to look to the heavens – and into the hearts of our people; to look for something extraordinary in day to day ordinary things. Yet the events of this last month, this last election, cause us to look down, not up; to walk without seeing those around us. When the news comes on T.V., I want to turn it off. I don’t want to even hear the name Donald Trump. When President Obama sat next to Trump in the White House, my heart sank. After years of struggle this was the President Obama who had finally given us DACA and promised DAPA, security for our families. There he sat turning over the White House to this man who threatened to deport eleven million of our families. I wanted – I needed – to find a space which that picture could not invade.
In truth it seems like there is no place to hide from the results of this election. There is uncertainty – but it seems there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Just going about our lives – going to work, going to school, paying the rent, taking care of children, going to church on Sundays – will no longer deliver us from danger. Still, that is what we know and we do it, struggling to keep up our spirits, knowing that it is not enough. Why? Because we don’t want to hope for something and then be disappointed. We certainly don’t want to expose ourselves to more danger. We want to hold on to whatever world we have left.
In scripture, the angel Gabriel comes to Zechariah to tell him about this miraculous intervention which will come through him and his family. Zechariah is given a spiritual premonition of what is to come. The angel calls on Zechariah to believe that something well out of the ordinary will happen, something that could only happen through divine intervention.
Zechariah holds on to his reality, to what he knows is real. He has a job. He has a place in the temple religion – even though he knows that religion is failing his people. When the angel says his aging wife will have a child – much less a child that will transform his people – he does not believe it. He cannot conceive of it. Zechariah cannot hear the voice of the lord over the noise of his own fears.
The angel Gabriel tells him that the child will be born – whether he believes it or not – but because Zechariah has not believed him the angel strikes him silent. Zechariah will not be able to speak again until the child who will be John the Baptist is born. Everyone will see him unable to speak – and wonder why. He can no longer hide from the world around him by staying busy. He must see what is happening to his people. Yet inside him is the vision of the angel, the proof of which is in his silence. That silence has created a sacred space in which he must live for nine months. He begins to anticipate. Soon he will see that his wife is indeed pregnant. He will watch this child growing inside her and know that something powerful is happening, something the Lord is doing. He begins in silence to set new priorities.
Why did the angel strike Zechariah silent? Because Zechariah’s priorities were wrong. His priority was to keep his place in the temple. His priorities were to keep acting as if nothing could change, as if nothing could bring a people to life, made strong in the faith and bold in the demand for justice, as if the forces against him were too powerful. The angel gave the old man a sacred space in which he could see with faith.
Think about what the angel told old Zechariah. “The child will turn parents towards their children, the disobedient towards the wisdom of the righteous.” This child, John the Baptist, will bring about a change in the people.
In the last election, Trump lost badly among people under thirty. It is from this generation that change will come. It is from the children now being born that change will come. The angel Gabriel is here today, on this day, telling us that God will come into our lives and turn our hearts towards our children, towards this new generation. He will call on us to sacrifice and struggle on their behalf – and make the way ready for them.
It has always been true that what gives a movement power is a commitment to the next generation. The old leaders of the movement used to say, “If you are not in this movement for the next generation than you are not really in this movement.” But if you are – if millions are – truly committed to fight for the next generation, than that movement will be unstoppable.
If you feel discouraged because of this last election, if you feel afraid, then you will be paralyzed. To move forward we must break that paralysis. That means not looking back on what could have been but isn’t. It means looking forward to what must be and fighting for it. That is the spirit we are looking for in order to begin this new year. Today’s miracle is Zechariah’s silence, the sacred space that Gabriel gave Zechariah – and which today Gabriel gives you.
So seek now the silence of Zechariah. Let yourself be silent and look at the children just born and the youth of our next generation, those who even now are filling the streets across the nation. These will be a hard few years. We will have to struggle and we will know some defeats. Some of the progress we wanted for ourselves will be delayed, some dreams may not come to us. Yet if we turn towards the wisdom of righteousness, if we turn towards the next generation, we will have the strength and the unity to overcome this setback.
We should be clear about the kind of injustice we face. They say we live in a democracy – but in a democracy every vote counts the same. In this election, the votes in California and Illinois and New York did not count as much as the votes in Mississippi or Iowa. The electoral college system, organized by state, protects the white majority areas of the country – and therefore diminishes the votes of people of color. That is why we won the popular vote but lost the election.
Of course there were other ways in which our votes were not counted equally. Laws were passed that made it difficult for people of color to vote – and many millions of undocumented and legal permanent residents were not allowed to vote at all. It was however a last ditch stand of those who feared the loss of privileges and status in a nation that is becoming majority African American, Latino and Asian. Even with the injustices of the system, their time is coming to an end.
Our task is to persevere while God’s plan for this nation unfolds. God looks at the future and he is well pleased. That is the feeling we need. That is the spiritual renewal we need this year. Our task is to demonstrate this future, to show this future to the nation, so that the people are emboldened. That is why we are calling for “People’s Popular Vote Inaugurations” on January 20th in cities across the nation while the official “apartheid” inauguration is going on in Washington DC. We have the majority with us and that means we have the power to make the country ungovernable. That is why we’re organizing the ten-ten-ten emergency response teams to respond to deportations. That is why we will work to make Chicago truly a sanctuary when we march and pray with the Virgin of Guadalupe this year.
In the next few weeks, we will unmask a system which seeks to deport even those who have served honorably in the armed forces to defend the nation. We will bear witness to the appearance of the Dark Virgin to Juan Diego. We will bear witness to the birth of John the Baptist and the birth of the blessed Jesus. We will focus on joy and love for the children at Christmas – and the next generation for which we struggle. We will wipe disappointment and despair and fear from our eyes and make clean our souls so that the Spirit of the Lord will find its place there.
It’s preparation time. Put your house in order. Put your family in order. Put your prayer and worship in order. Most of all, listen to the angel Gabriel: you must change your priorities. Your priority must be to make the way ready for a new generation. Take your place in Familia Latina Unida or in the Fuerza Juventud. Your work in building the resistance needs to come first – not be something you will do if you have time – but first on your agenda.
Some focus on the victories of our enemies – but we are like the farmers that persist year after year. We take from the last year’s crop the seeds we plant this year. Planting those seeds in the soil of faith must become our priority. Our churches and our ministry organizations that come from the churches: Familia Latina Unida and La Fuerza Juventud, these are the seeds we have left from last year’s harvest. It must be our priority to plant them again in the soil of faith.
Turn towards the wisdom of the righteous. You can do these things without anxiety if you fix your eyes on what is being born again this year, on the generation that is coming of age. God will come into the world through them.
The angel is here today. I felt him come into the church early this morning. Close your eyes and you can feel him watching you, making you silent, giving you sacred space to walk in, today’s space, space in which God will come into your life. Even the tallest giant is nothing before an almighty God!
If you close your eyes and look with your hearts you can see a young David, standing before the Giant that seeks to humiliate and dominate his people. He had the assurance of youth, the love of his people and the guidance of an almighty God. He spoke boldly saying “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty.”
And you will close your eyes and see little David take the stone from his pouch and place it in his slingshot and hurl it to the one spot on the forehead of the giant that God let him see – and Trump will fall to the ground and his racist armies will run in fear and disarray. Remember: your victory has already been won in heaven. The dragon of hate has been defeated in heaven. He is already dead. He just doesn’t know it. BUT THE PEOPLE OF GOD ARE GIVEN THE FUTURE! AMEN? AMEN? AMEN!
The Holy Scriptures for the First Week in Preparation Time
Isaiah 40:3-5 Prepare The Way For The Lord
A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
1 Samuel 17:45-49 David and Goliath
David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.
Luke 1:13-17 The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”