Mary is the Information officer for Springdale College: Together in Mission, co-editor of the forthcoming Journal of Missional Practice, an elder at Pavilion Christian Community for more than twenty years and has recently completed an MA in Missional Leadership.
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Advent 2 | Preparing for Peace
Advent Readings | Baruch 5:1-9, Psalm 126, Philippians 1:1-11 & Luke 3:1-6
01I was speaking to newcomers last night, telling them the story of our church’s 35 year history. I have to confess that for a moment I lost interest in my audience and became captured by a memory. I remembered a particular year of rapid decline, where we almost abandoned hope in a future. The final humiliation was a community barn dance, without community. Those of us who felt like hosts danced our feet off, in an attempt to fill an empty hall.
That was 15 years ago. God intervened and, for a time, we experienced grace upon grace. Those difficult times were not without meaning. The story of that barn dance, part of the humiliation then, is part of the laughter now. The humiliations, grace and laughter tie us together as partners in a bigger story which embraces and goes beyond our local church.
02 Peace is a slippery concept for us, suggesting sleepy stasis without change or surprise. Scripture and nature point in a different direction. The peace promised by Advent arrives with major earth works, laughter, and little ones carried in the Lord’s arms. C S Lewis describes the outbreak of peace as a romp, in Prince Caspian, where the control mechanisms of a bureaucratic society are overturned, and wildness breaks out again.
03Experiencing grace upon grace, our church grew rapidly for a little while, completely defeating our attempts at organization. There are tensions and real difficulties from that. We have discovered that we do need systems and processes. But the proclamation of Advent will not come from these safe places. The news of the coming king escaped Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate and even the high priests. It came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. We need to stay in touch with that place.
04The desire, which can perceive the story’s end is the fruit of suffering. The prophet still sees the captives, bound and on foot, led away into exile. Those eyes watch the horizon for signs of a return. Our children, our communities, our own imaginations have been captured by a restless narrative which destroys and consumes. Jesus invites us to look to consequences of this, places we would rather not see, where there is chaos, neglect and violence. But our Prince of Peace has blessed the hunger and thirst we feel, and the powerlessness we experience in the face of suffering and injustice. This is the deal. He has proclaimed peace, and we are invited to remain and to pursue it with him- real peace, gritty and human, warm and sometimes slow to come.
05Pursuit of this wild peace cost John a violent death. Even in my own community it has cost conflict which we do not remember with laughter. We are promised the peace which is life as beloved, to find that our life is hidden with Christ in God. The cost of that, is that we learn to love and we catch God’s desire for peace. The songs of advent begin with lament. “O come, O come Emmanuel.” We watch the horizon.