An owl has taken up residence in the marsh in front of my house.
I hear him calling shortly after the sun sets and it gets dark.
It's not so much a distinct "Whooo" as it is a "woooo". It sounds more like the wind blowing over a narrow bottle opening.
"Wooooo. Woooo. Woooo. Woooo."
The sound of it is haunting and arresting. It feels ancient and present all at once.
As I reflect on the scriptures that take me through Advent, my religious imagination is stirred. When I go out onto my deck at night, I feel as if I have my own Advent John the Baptist calling me to a deeper spirituality - an Advent Spirituality of the Wilderness - or, in this case, the Marshes of Llangollen - liberating my religious imagination to greater freedom.
It is calling me to the Advent Spirituality of Isiah, who continually inspires my own religious imagination, with dreams of the Realm of God here on earth that:
The wolf shall live with the lamb,In a wee bit, I'll be heading to church where we'll hear this gospel pericope:
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
---- Isaiah 11:1-10
Now John wore clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.Maybe it's because I'm neither a Pharisee or a Sadducee that my "Owl in the Wilderness" doesn't sound half as harsh as this morning's gospel.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
"I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." Matthew 3:1-12
I'm really just a white girl who loves Jesus, and tries to do the right thing and make a difference in the world.
I hear the "Wooooo. Woooo. Woooo," as a call to 'metanoia" - to repentance - to "turn around" to a new life. An expanded life. A life trying to catch up with where Jesus already is. A life trying to imagine more. Better. Greater.
I think I have "arrived" only to find that I have so much more to go. So much more to discover. So much more to expand. So much more to shovel past, to separate the wheat and chaff from my life, down to the very threshing floor of faith.
If I can imagine more of the Realm of God come here to Earth where life is better for more people, the greater the possibility of it actually happening in my life time.
"Wooooo. Woooo. Woooo. Woooo."
It sounds like an invitation. A welcoming to Advent. A call to go deeper into the wilderness of faith.
I recently picked up my copy of Inkheart by Cornelia Funk. It was one of the last books my daughter Jaime and I read together.
Wiki summarizes the book far better than I:
Inkheart follows the adventures of a 12-year-old girl named Meggie Folchart whose life changes dramatically when she realizes that her father, a bookbinder named Mortimer (Mo), has an unusual ability; when he reads aloud, he can bring characters and items from books into the real world. When Meggie was young Mo read a book called Inkheart, causing Meggie's mother to vanish into the book and allowing Capricorn and his men to escape into the real world. Meggie and Mo's adventure takes them throughout Europe, particularly Italy, and brings them into contact with many unusual characters.'Unusual characters', indeed. A magician. An Aladdin. A man consumed by desperate loneliness for his wife and family. Other men and women, consumed by an evil quest for power that is not their's for the asking or taking. A family trying to 'turn around' so they can be together again.
But the real story is about a young girl who is challenged to discover her own gift, engage her own imagination, and discover her own voice, even as she faces into a howling, evil wind come to destroy her and the people she loves.
In the very beginning of the book are these words, from a poem by Shel Silverstein. As I read them, I fell in love with them all over again - so much so that I've included them as a new addition to the headliner of my blog:
If you are a dreamer, come in.I hear that as a call to Advent. To metanoia through telling the "threshing floor" stories of our faith. To a repentance of the heart. To turn around, turn around, turn around in some flax-golden tales of scripture and the stories of our own lives, till it all comes 'round right.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A Hope-er, a Pray-er, a wisher, a Magic Bean buyer,
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire,
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
And, the Marsh Man of Llangollen - like an Owl in the Wilderness, and John the Baptist in the Desert - is, even now, saying, "Wooooo. Woooo. Woooo. Woooo."