What’s Up with Pastor Todd 12-3-18
The theme of the second Sunday of Advent is peace. The lectionary connects peace to the story of John the Baptist, which on the surface might seem ironic because John is remembered as a great disturber of the peace. In fact, he did such a good job at disturbing the peace that the authorities had him executed!
John was Jesus’ near relative–a cousin, perhaps. His role was to “prepare the way” for Jesus’ message. John did that first by practicing repentance himself and then by inviting others into that repentance. Here’s where the peace disturbing comes in. Human reality is that we tend to become attached to our bad habits and hurtful ways. We do them because on some level they work for us, so we ignore their negative effects. I eat doughnuts because I love them even though healthwise I know I should and could make better choices. Corporations pollute the environment because they can make more money that way even though they may be poisoning their neighbors. Politicians lie because it helps them politically even though–as Christ said–it’s the truth that sets us free. Repentance threatens to disrupt our lives on one level in order to bring healing on a deeper level.
And that’s where the peace comes in. John’s ministry was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah who wrote, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord. make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth.” For me, the image of the smooth way is an image for peace. Peace is unobstructed action. It’s a smooth flow. It’s not getting hung up or stressed out or stuck in a rut. Peace “undramatic.” Mountains are dramatic. Valleys can be a place where–in the words of the Psalmist–we face “the shadow.” But peace is even keeled and often overlooked. Peace doesn’t make for good television.
That’s why it’s all the more important in this media oversaturated world that we practice and then proclaim peace. The good news is that there are many, many good people in the world doing amazing, everyday, self-sacrificing things. So we have to make it our job as Christians and as a church to acknowledge and thank them. Practicing peace is not flashy. Practicing peace does not call attention to itself. But if we don’t practice peace, where will we and the rest of the world find refuge?