Welcome to the Waretown United Methodist Church Christmastime Session Discipleship Initiative! For the next three weeks we will be posting a once weekly reflection on Scripture, Mission, and the book Right Here Right Now: by Alan Hirsch & Lance Ford. This Blog/Facebook discussion is part Bible Study, part Book Discussion, and part Practical Worskshop. You may post responses to this post (either on the blog or Facebook), repost, start a new related post, or message with others regarding the posted discussion for the week. Before you begin, please observe the following practices:
1. PRAY before you start! When we are in connection with God daily… God works in and through our lives to bring insight, inspiration, and understanding.
2. ENGAGE others in the group and outside. What God reveals to us through insight, inspiration and understanding is not meant for us alone… but others as well. God wants to use all of us to bring love, grace, hope, and faith to others.
3. RESPECT everyone. Sometimes we don’t agree… that’s OK. Consider every person and post to be earnestly seeking the best that God has to offer.
4. PARTICIPATE. It’s easy to passively observe… it takes guts to get in on the action! God is not calling for armchair quarterbacks, or part-timers. The only way to experience anything from this is to be ‘ALL IN’.
Holy De-construction: Preparing for Christmas
Anyone of us who are parents will have dealt with something like the following scenario:
One of our children asks if they may have dessert. The child is old enough to serve themselves ice-cream, so we give them permission to serve themselves. The child is not necessarily mature enough to complete the project without some supervision, so, after giving the child some time to work it out, we the parent, pop-into the kitchen to see how everything is going. What we find is the largest bowl in the kitchen filled to the top with more ice-cream than the whole family could eat in one sitting… and a little face covered in chocolate ice-cream looking up at us innocently saying, “is this ok?”
Of course, as funny as it is… no, it’s not ok. If our child ate that much ice cream they would be sick. If they ate that much ice-cream all the time their body would be unhealthy and overweight, and our child would be very very unhappy.
So, ice-cream is just one, small, childish example of an almost universal, pervasive, human condition. Whatever culture or historical period, it has been a feature of humankind to go to excess when excess is available (like riches, power, pleasure, and entertainment). Most times, excess is focused on self-gratification, and the biggest problem is that, unlike a child having a parent come in to keep their appetites in check, a culture that has access to excess (like ours in the US), locks the kitchen door and consumes the whole bowl.
John the Baptist was a radical character during the time of Jesus, the Scriptures highlight that, describing his rough clothing (camel’s hair), his rough home (the wilderness), his rough diet (locusts and honey), and his rough message:
3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.5Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
Simply translated, this ‘rough message’ was to de-construct our personal and cultural priorities that inflict us with sin. Put another way, John calls people to ‘repent’ (literally: change our minds and act on the change) and let God’s will and ways direct our priorities. Using our illustration above… John calls us to unlock the kitchen door to God’s influence so that we can stop the self-centeredness and excess that keeps us sick (i.e. sinful), unhealthy, and deeply unhappy. Anyone wishing to argue that we in the US are pretty unhappy consider this: even though we are the wealthiest nation in the world… we also consume the highest amount of anti-depressant drugs.
The opening sentence of chapter 5 (p. 137) of Lance Ford’s and Alan Hirsch’s book Right Here Right Now says this: “There are times that losing can lead to winning, and anyone who is serious about living missionally has to do just that”. The chapter goes on to discuss the theme we have been reflecting on here: if we are burdened with excess… we are too unhealthy and too unhappy to be a daily Christ-follower on a mission to bring Jesus’ Good News to friends and neighbors.
This Christmas, as we take up the call to “prepare the way of the Lord”, let’s begin with that tough step of changing our minds from self-centeredness and excess and acting on that change by getting spiritually healthy. It’s a DE-construction… sure a little uncomfortable in the beginning as we remove from our lives some of the things that have made us sick… but the health that God will build-in in its place will be well worth it.