This is the meditation I wrote that appears in today’s reading and reflection in Liberti Church’s Advent 2013 Prayerbook, which can be downloaded for free.
This world is anything but peaceable. Humanity is constant in its injustice and wickedness inflicted upon one another across this world. It makes you wonder if “humane” is a misnomer. And we can’t just blame all of this on free will, either. The natural world rages against us with its own violence with staggering regularity. And all of this hits home the most when it’s those closest to us that suffer under this world with little peace on hand.
We look at all of this and ask that oldest of questions: “Why?” But when we open the pages of Scripture, we don’t find answers to this seemingly core thread running through our existence. The God of the Bible seems far more concerned with answering “what” questions than “why” questions–what is the nature of reality? what is the problem with the world? what is the solution?
But there is good news for all of us that struggle against the violence of this world: Advent.
In Advent, God does not merely see our why‘s and disregard them as silly and human; he does not simply leave us to our own to wrestle and struggle and doubt. He doesn’t answer our whys. He simply looks at us and the world with compassion, acknowledges to us the way things are, and rolls up his sleeves to address it.
I’ve been a little busy recently, but I thought I’d drop a quick post and let everyone in the Philly area know that I’ll be hosting a house show at my place this upcoming Friday at 7pm. There will be opera, fiddles, harmonies, sing-a-longs, food, drink, cider, cheer, and merriment. (Oh, and maybe a little celebrating for my recent engagement.)
It’s been far too long since the last time we had one of these shows, but each has been better than the last. It all started when I first moved into this house in Center City Southwest, and we noticed that there were some birdhouses nailed to our back patio fence (above). And so, The Birdhouse was born, and the music followed shortly thereafter. This time around, we’re having the following artists perform:
Come support the artists and have a good time. For all the info, check out the Facebook Event page.
As of this past Sunday, the Christian Church finds themselves in the season of Advent. I don’t know about you, but this season has snuck up on me (admittedly, I was a little occupied). I’ve been working on a new Advent Mixtape, but it’s not done (you can find last year’s here). I have an idea for an Advent series, but I haven’t fully thought through the concept (see past series here). I’ve had devotionals and reading plans set up on my phone to do, but I haven’t done even one day of them all this week.
But one of the beauties of the Church Calendar is that it doesn’t depend on us. The realities pointed to in these weeks are objective realities that happened (and are happening) in spite of us, and not because of us. Another beauty of the Calendar is that it happens every year, so even if we don’t engage one year like we’d like or hope, there’s always next year.
Lately, I’ve found myself getting very nostalgic, remembering past relationships, friends, places I’ve lived, and people I’ve known. And honestly, I don’t know why my remembering and thinking through all of these things in the past has caused more tears than laughter, especially in the area of relationships.
I have found myself lingering on the Facebook profiles of old roommates whom I’ve completely lost touch with inexplicably. I have been reading through old emails and blog posts that remind me of spiritual fathers and mothers with whom disagreements over the past several years have led to very real divisions..
And yesterday, I heard a song that reminded me of a situation a couple of years ago that was incredibly painful for me. It wasn’t really any one’s particular sin or moral failings that ended up causing all the hurt and pain; just the collision of people’s own baggage and immaturity and struggles. As I thought back on it I remembered the false ideal picture of reality I had blindly painted for myself at that time. I remembered the slow, painful process that was this picture being broken down brick by brick over the course of several weeks. I felt again the shadows of the anxiety and pain from that time.
I’m taking this class on the idea of “worship” in all its dimensions, and we read a few pieces that gave me an entirely new framework to understand the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, and how God works in those stories. And no, I’m not exaggerating.
In Genesis 15, God makes a covenant with Abraham, and it’s a little weird, mainly because it’s entirely on God. He promises that he will be Abraham’s God. He promises he will give him many descendants. He promises to make those descendants a blessing to the world. And, most importantly, he takes all of the potential negative consequences of breaking the covenant on Himself. In essence, he makes this covenant with Himself on Abraham’s behalf.
What’s Abraham’s part in this whole thing? “He believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness”, the text says (and he’s supposed to circumcise his kids as a visible mark of his belief). This is one of the earliest and clearest depictions of the unconditional grace-driven nature of God’s relationship to humanity and the world–a relationship that would later be called “The Gospel”. In fact, the Apostle Paul would look at this moment in Genesis and say:
Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.
For my Gospel, Culture, and Church course this past week, we had to read the opening chapter of this book on the Church as mission, rather than seeing the Church as something that does mission. We also had to read some mind-blowing pages from Hans Kung’s epic work The Church. It got me thinking a lot about what precisely the “church” is and how it is that thing. I just wanted to share some disjointed thoughts today.
Throughout the readings, the (perhaps over-used) term “Being in Becoming” kept coming to mind. (For my more philosophically-trained friends, forgive me if I’m simplifying this term too much; My main exposure to this has been cursory, in the context of the Trinitarian theology of Karl Barth and how he describes God).
In others words, the Church’s very Being is in its efforts to more faithfully “Become” what it is. It is not and cannot become a static entity into which we invite people. As we are caught up in the missional plan of the missional God, it propels forward into places where the old notions of Christendom and privilege are not relevant and are shown to be the anemic frameworks they are.