Posted by: Titus Presler | November 28, 2011

A Watching Community: Meditation for Advent I Monday

A Watching Community

“Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo!”  With this staccato of doo’s and moving her hand across the afternoon sky, the Shona woman communicated the sign she and the hundred other people sitting on the grass had been watching for: the sound and sight of the priest’s car approaching this meeting place on a remote ridge in the highlands of eastern Zimbabwe.  The priest and the Anglican nuns had arrived, and now she was celebrating that event as something momentous.  Everyone laughed at her imitation.

The watching had been serious, though.  A couple of months earlier, a young man named Augustine Maunga had come to my thatched study at Bonda.  He limped from injuries sustained from detention in a Rhodesian jail during the Liberation Struggle.  “We’ve been having prayers at Nyachibva,” he said, “but now we want a priest to visit us, and we want to become a congregation.  Please come.”

A day and time were fixed.  Of course, there were car problems.  Of course, the place was hard to reach.  Of course, we were late.  By the time we arrived in the open field they’d been waiting for hours.  They’d also been waiting for years: for liberation from oppression, for healing from violence, for community after war – for God near, after a time when God seemed far.

They’d also done so much more than wait.  That afternoon they’d been singing and praying and preaching in the group.  In those years they’d been longing and praying and gathering and worshiping.  They’d been watching for signs, and acting on the signs they received.  Yes, now they wanted to connect with the wider church, but their own zeal had already made them a congregation.

There in the field we celebrated eucharist together.  We gave thanks.  We celebrated Emmanuel, which means God with us, Mwari anesu in Shona.  The people at Nyachibva had been watching for a sign.  And what a sign they were!

This meditation is excerpted from Titus Presler’s “Alert for Signs: Seeing and Praying in Advent”  (Forward Movement Publications). 

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