In late November 1992 Queen Elizabeth gave a speech marking the 40th anniversary of her accession to the throne. Famously she described the year as her “annus horribilis,” a horrible year. Many are thinking something similar of 2016. Regardless of where you land on the politics of the year, on Brexit or the Presidential election, the tone of the debate and the atmosphere following both has often been toxic and has served to magnify differences. And what with the ongoing Syria crisis, Iraq, and on and on, it could be described as yet another horrible year.
The Advent season marks the beginning of the new church year. It is a time when we are encouraged to wait and to watch patiently. To pay attention to what new thing God may be doing in the world. But how to we do that with the shadow of the old still hanging around us?
This year’s TML will use the framework of Brueggemann’s organisation of the Psalter to provide a basic shape for our reflections. He arranges the Psalms on the pattern of orientation, disorientation, reorientation. Psalms of orientation reflect a settled order of life, when things make sense and hold together. Psalms of disorientation are prepared to face life as it really is, no sugar coating, airing grievances and complaints. And Psalms of reorientation are not a return to the old order but a transformation worked by God in the face of what has happened, and are often about personal or communal thanksgiving.
The model of orientation-disorientation-reorientation might enable us reflect at the end of 2016, and the beginning of the new year, to challenge the established consensus, voice the hard questions of faith, theology, society, politics and get a truer picture of who, and where, God might be in the world.
Brueggemann writes, “The Psalms are an assurance to us that when we pray and worship, we are not expected to censure or deny the deepness of our own human pilgrimage. Rather, we are expected to submit it openly and trustingly so that it can be brought to eloquent and passionate speech addressed to the Holy One” (Praying the Psalms, 14).
Welcome to TML 2016.