Christmas Eve this year was one of the calmest I've ever experienced. I remember actually having time and heart-energy to wonder what Christ was bringing into the new year. I thought about moving into the parsonage, the inauguration of a new US president, the development of a couple COVID vaccines, the departure of Laura from my daily routine, and a lived experience of 2020 that renewed my conviction that the kingdom of God is just around the next corner.
I was excited on December 24th. Then, the next month did not pan out as I had envisioned. Technically, all those things still happened. It's only that they didn't happen in the same way I imagined it. The move was not as smooth as I had anticipated. Neither was the transition of the presidency. I'm still convinced that the Kingdom of God is just around the next corner, but Laura's departure seems to have dropped a pile of papers, a copier, and 45 3-ring binders between me and that kingdom.
Telling you about it all now reminds me of the story of the Transfiguration that we're going to read in worship this month. That too is a story about a bunch of Jesus followers who saw a new beginning and then had their expectations confounded. They thought that they were following a great healer and teacher. Up on that mountain, at the pinnacle of their new beginning, Jesus' face became the other in front of them. "Became other" Another way of saying that he became something they didn't recognize. Something that was different from what they knew, or identified with.
I can think of a few times when the view (or person, or idea) in front of me became something I didn't recognize. The words I would use to describe that are: unsettling, scary, exhausting. It's not easy to live through constant change. So how do we survive? How can we thrive? For the past couple weeks I've been taking solace and guidance from the disciples in our stories. They have all shown me the spiritual gift of willingness.
On the boat, Simon (Peter) was willing to try Jesus' way instead of insisting on his own experience and expertise. At his home, Simon's mother-in-law was willing to let a strange healer try his hand. Neighbors were willing to listen to a new teacher who was ill-credentialed. In all of these cases, the people let go of needing to understand, or control, and embraced curiosity. Their willingness was the key that opened a door otherwise closed to them. Through that door was the kingdom of God.
God of transformation, unclench our muscles and open our hearts to the strange future that we do not recognize. Help us to trust that even in the things we do not recognize, you can bring us what we need.
Christ the Good Shepherd
Various editorials, articles, and other items of interest.