No media available

Saanich Advent Cocktail Special

            Earlier this week I was invited to create a cocktail to pair with the gospel reading for today, the Second Sunday in Advent. Matthew Anderson, a Biblical scholar, Lutheran pastor from Swift Current, Saskatchewan, and a friend, was giving a book launch over Zoom hosted by the Anglican Diocese of Quebec with Bishop Bruce Myers, a former seminary classmate and friend. Matthew just released his new book Pairings which offers both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks with passages from the Bible. He calls it a kind of Biblical studies primer but fun.

            In thinking through a pairing for today, thinking about John the Baptist making straight the way of God, I thought about something wild and sour. Rubharb came to mind with its tart flavour and that it grows in our climate. Sharing this challenge with Florentien she also joined in the fun and started research holiday cocktails that involve cranberry, which is Indigenous to the island. In fact Florentien discovered that the Sencoten language from Indigenous people from the Saanich Peninsula cranberry is called Kemcols and wild dock, related to rhubarb, is called Demose. So the two key ingredients to this cocktail grow right here on the Southern Island. Cranberry harvesting takes place around Nanaimo for example. In addition this cocktail calls for tonic water and a sprig of rosemary which we have growing on our patio.

            I want to share the non-alcoholic version of this cocktail, or rather mocktail, for you given its Sunday morning. And recognizing we need increasingly to give people non-alcoholic versions of drinks as we approach the holidays. I am going to mix together the following. One part non-alcoholic rhubarb gin from Sooke, one part cranberry juice, one part tonic water, and a sprig of rosemary. Ah, that’s delicious. You too can recreate this tart mocktail at your own gatherings. When Bishop Bruce asked me what I call it, I came up with the Saanich Advent Cocktail Special.  

John the Baptist, a tangy prophet

            Now that we’ve thought about John the Baptist as a kind of tangy, rhubarb flavoured prophet, let’s talk about his lineage a little. The beginning of today’s gospel reading as a history timeline and genealogy that can make our eyes glaze over or something that gets Bible nerds really excited. What could be exciting about this odd intro? For one this genealogy reads as a kind of foreshadowing of the rest of the gospel. It’s sort of like the cast of characters listed in the program when you go see theatre. It’s there so you have some idea of who are the players and what to expect.            

            We hear a couple of significant names in the opening verses. We hear about the Emperor Tiberius, who is the same emperor who makes a decree that all the people in the land must travel to their home towns to be registered for the census. This figures large in the travel of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus. We hear about Pontius Pilate who later puts Jesus on trial, along with Anas and Caiaphas who bring accusations against him. We hear about Herod and his brother Philip who later dies. Herod then marries his brother’s wife Philippa to which John his objections and Herod has John imprisoned. Philippa gets her revenge on John by engineering her daughter to request the head of John the Baptist after being granted a wish at a party by Herod.

            All in these opening verses in the gospel reading we see the foreshadowing of Christmas, John’s death, and Jesus’ on the cross. This is the divine drama that plays out, beginning with John being sent as a forerunner, one of the last prophets in the Bible telling people to prepare for Jesus’ coming. And while the events may feel far removed historically from today, there is also a familiarity in how the stories play out now as well. People in positions of power put others to the test and find ways to sideline people who threaten their political and financial aims. It is a recurring story which is why God sends John and Jesus to stand alongside people with the least power, people who are dispossessed from their land, people living on the margins.

Apocalypse is not the end but a new beginning

            One thing that is remarkable about John is that he just doesn’t care what other people think about him. He has a holy calling that he has come to fulfill. And we hear this play out in the rest of the gospel reading from Luke, hearing John describe his prophetic message. At the same time while brings people a warning to get ready for the coming of God, it is also a message of grace. Too often we think about the prophetic simply as scolding, whereas it is rooted in God’s love. God recognizes the pain and injustices on earth and is coming to bring relief.

            Bishop Anna Greenwood-Lee, the Anglican bishop here on the island, offers a great primer to the season of Advent in a two minute sermon on Twitter. She identifies the oddness that Advent is the first season of the church year, which is also a season that begins with apocalypse. Too often we think about apocalypse as something scary, but quite literally the word means “unveiling” or “revealing.”

            I want to read some of Bishop Anna’s mini-sermon here because I think it eloquently frames what we’re experiencing as people of faith in uncertain times. Bishop Anna says, “An apocalypse often happens violently when people are forced to see things that have been covered up, things that were veiled, things that were always there but we chose not to look at, not to acknowledge. And 2021 has mostly certainly ben an apocalyptic year in British Columbia. First the fires and now the floods have uncovered have laid bare the truth about climate change, and we have been forced to see our own complicity in it. Our own denial.” She goes on to say how we have overestimated our own abilities and underestimated the powers of creation.

            “The apocalypse though is never the end of the story. It is our opportunity to see, to really see the world as it is. And it’s an opportunity to see, to really see the world as it is. And it’s an opportunity for us to recommit to living in a world of interconnectedness. A world we look after our part of God’s creation. Where we have no illusion that we can simply dominate and control it. And when it’s when we can recommit to a world of love and injustice incarnate. And so as we enter into this season of Advent we are in apocalyptic times but it is not the end of the world. It is just unveiling of the world as it is. And our opportunity to commit to the world as it should be.”  

Wrapping Up

            And so God meets us where we are. God sends us the prophets we need during an apocalyptic time. God also knows we’re tired. We’re weary. We wished the pandemic was already over six months ago. God knows our mental health is slipping. That everyone is at a lower ebb even if we don’t say it. It’s just the reality. And we know some of us are carrying heavier burdens especially as we move towards the holidays. Family issues and emotional labour tends to increase this time of year.

            We also give thanks for successes in these times. We give thanks that we are able to provide people in need Angel Tree gifts. That we have successfully helped a refugee start building a new home in Greater Victoria. That we continue offering worship and programming online and in-person through a pandemic. Our successes are many and all of you have helped make these possible. So thank you from Pr. Lyle and me. Thank you for church council and everyone who helps keep this congregation of Jesus followers moving forward. Together we aren’t just waiting out hard times. We are carrying one another through it. Together we are the body of Christ, balm of love, during hard times.

            If you are having an especially hard time and not getting the support you need, please let Pr. Lyle and I know, so we can help find support and lift you in prayer.

            Receive the grace that surpasses all understanding, today who appears in a tangy rhubarb prophet. Uncovering God’s love for each one of you. Amen.