Slow Church Daily Advent Reflection.
Monday November 28, 2011
What are you running from, my love?
What’s this thing you’re guilty of?
Follow me and never feel accused
But you never do believe a word I say
And you never did believe there’d be day of reckoning
So you run and you run and you run and you never stop
And you work and you work until you drop
You’re in over your head and the pressure just don’t quit
But you can’t escape the reach of love
— The Call, “You Run” – Listen: [ Youtube ]
These daily Slow Church Advent Reflections are based on the Daily Readings of the Revised Common Lectionary (Year B). We love for you to read and reflect along with us!
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Why does modern culture, particularly in the West, move so fast? At the heart of the answer to this question lies a big knot of fears. The industrialization of the world has been driven by a host of fears that have been compounded over the last two centuries or more. We’re afraid of what the neighbors might think, afraid of working too hard, afraid of sickness, afraid of poverty and starvation, and ultimately afraid of death. It is fitting therefore that we start the Advent season by turning to the words of hope that we find in the first five verses of Micah 4. This passage is an eschatological vision, a glimpse of Kingdom that has been secured in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and as such, also a glimpse of the life of Christ into which we are called in the here and now.
What stands out most in this passage is the refrain in verse 4b that “no one shall make them afraid.” This refrain and its variants are used a number of times throughout the Old and New Testaments to describe the people of God (e.g., Lev. 26:6, Job 11:19, Is. 17:2, 2 Tim 1:7, I Jn 4:18). But what is particularly striking to me about its use here is that it is connected with the assurance of God’s provision described in the first part of verse 4 (“They shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees”). One of the fundamental economic convictions of our Slow Church project is that God provides more than enough for all creation. The principle of the scarcity of resources on which capitalism, socialism and all major economic systems are based is a lie, granted a lie that is useful for subduing the masses, but a lie nonetheless. Yes, there are all kinds of sins and injustices in the distribution of resources in our fallen world, but the shalom that God intends for creation and that has been secured in the work of Christ, is one for which God provides abundantly for all creatures and in which resources are lovingly and carefully shared. There is no longer any reason for war (verse 3), and “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”
Every social group has their own gods, those powers whom they fear so much that they are willing to make sacrifices (verse 5a). Nationalistic gods, militaristic gods, economic gods, technological gods, these tyrannical gods desire more and more from us, and we find ourselves running faster and faster. In our Western culture there are many social and economic fears that are fueled by consumerism and these fears kick into high gear during the Christmas season (“What if I don’t get Bob a gift? What if he doesn’t like it?” “What if I spend beyond my budget?”, etc. ) It is striking, however, to see where this passage from Micah ends up: “But we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.” Our identity is found not in the stories of the gods who whip the broader culture into a frenzy, but rather in the story of the LORD, the God who created and sustains the world, and who through the work of Christ is reconciling all creation. The Advent season is a reminder that we can have a taste now – however small – of the all-encompassing eschatological peace that has been established in Christ.
As we, the fear-drunk people of God, stumble into another Advent season, let us begin by confessing our fears to each other (maybe not our deepest, darkest fears, for that requires trust that can only be established in time), but as a start perhaps God will allow us the grace to confess the fears – or some of the fears – that blast us at light-speed through the Christmas season each year. And as we confess these fears, may God begin a work of transformation in us, giving us the courage to first imagine and then embody a life where these fears have been replaced with the peace of Christ, a peace that can never be killed, only resurrected!
Chris Smith is co-writing Slow Church (forthcoming Likewise/IVP Books) with John Pattison. He is editor of The Englewood Review of Books, and a member of The Englewood Christian Church community on the urban Near Eastside of Indianapolis.