“God disrupts everything.”
So said our prophetic brother Jonathan Martin. And wow, could we use some disruption right now. Fear is, indeed, in the air. Most of us could list a dozen things to be afraid of in our current global climate (including, well, the climate). Most of us could probably do so in less than a minute.
The normal, un-disrupted logic of fear plays out all around us these days. The violence and chaos of the world cause people to look around frantically for ways to get things back under control. The seductively obvious solution is to meet violence with more violence. To fight fear with force. This is the logic that calls for more bombs. This is the logic that caused the president of a prominent evangelical university to call this week for his students to start carrying guns “so we could end those Muslims” before they harm us.
But our liturgy last night kept highlighting the Advent promise of freedom from fear. Our opening gospel readings found the angels telling the shepherds not to be afraid and Zechariah proclaiming that Jesus would rescue us so we could serve God without fear. The songs we sang proclaimed the greatness of our Joy and that we would not be afraid because of God’s presence. Our prayers were made to the Prince of Peace who offers us an alternative to fear. We passed the peace to one another. And, of course, Jonathan Martin asked us to ponder the question of what fear we need to let go of so we might prepare room in our hearts for Christ. Take a listen to the podcast here:
Two thousand years ago God made his ultimate response to the chaos and violence of the world. Many in that day expected a response of power (after all, who is better able to power-up than God?). That was the expectation of John the Baptist, as Jonathan pointed out. But Christmas isn’t the celebration of the victory of a military commander, driving the enemies of God before him; it’s the celebration of the birth of a baby to a poor family in an out-of-the-way town.
Jonathan told us the story of Ananias, who acted out of faith to extend words of friendship to an enemy of God, Saul. How could that be? Where does one find the strength to do such an irrational thing?
One could, perhaps, look to the story of Christmas, where God himself extended friendship to his enemies. Us.
God, at Christmas, chose not the road of power but the road of love. He disrupted everything, and promises to do the same for us, if we’ll allow it.
And that is what the practice Aaron led us through, of Examen, offers. Fear is all around us. We find ourselves receiving from our culture a “residual fear”, as Jonathan put it. It can slip in and permeate our thinking without us even realizing it. And so we stop to examine our hearts. We open up our thoughts, and our fear, to God’s light. And God, who disrupted a broken, fearful world with words of friendship, disrupts our broken, fearful hearts with whispers of love.
Come, Lord Jesus, disrupt everything.
Curtis Miller and The Practice Team