Sunday, December 14, 2008

Stirring the Pot

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
(Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent)

In the Episcopal Church, today is often observed as "Stir-up Sunday," a day in which we specifically focus on our desire that God "stir up" God's power among us as we seek to do God's will in our lives. The traditionally Anglican Stir-up Sunday is the last Sunday before Advent, now mostly observed as Christ the King Sunday. In any case, wherever it falls in the church year, it is an opportunity for Christians to do one of the most dangerous things possible--invite and encourage God to act in our lives. Certainly that was a version of the prayer that many in ancient Israel prayed, and God sent a most unlikely answer in the person of John the Baptist, who we read about in today's Gospel. No one could figure John out. He did not fit into any neat category (not the Messiah, not Elijah, not the prophet). That drove the authorities of the time nearly crazy but also drove many people out into the desert to see, hear, and be baptized by this "voice crying in the wilderness."

As I noted in my sermon this morning, perhaps the best thing we can do during times of war and economic uncertainty such as we have is to be open to, and expecting of, God's work in the world. Perhaps we should eschew a desire for stability and calm in favor of a desire that God would work though the chaos and uncertainty. The best advice may be that of St. Paul to the members of the church in Thessalonica, the Epistle lesson for today:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.
-- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
The Spirit of God is notoriously untidy and unpredictable, though not inconsistent. For those of us, especially Episcopalian folks, who like things done "decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 14:40) it is worth knowing that God can and does still surprise us. The biggest thing for us to remember is that God is all about healing and restoration, even if a little surgery and demolition is required in the process. Perhaps in such a time as this, a time of chaos and uncertainty, we might well be more open to God's working in our midst. Perhaps even in the form of a little baby in a manger?

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