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When you get right down to it, God can be a bit unreasonable.
God is not always rational, practical, sensible or within the bounds of reason. How reasonable and rational is a God Who chooses to use the wounded, the broken, the fallen, the fallible and even the wicked to do the divine bidding? I mean becoming flesh, walking among us, telling us we are God’s children and that God cares for us better than the best parents? Then we are told anyone can draw near to God, be a friend of God, if only we surrender and accept the grace of it all?
The bottom line is – grace is absurd and even downright offensive.
Jesus was not so reasonable or practical; his resume would not have gone too far in the corporate or religious world today, if we judged by reason, rationale and appearances. God’s ‘business plan’ was (and still is) completely maniacal: hang out with the poor, the rejected, the unclean, the blue collar types. It gets even better, Jesus decided to spit fire towards the pious, the righteous, and the religious leaders, consistently showing disdain for the emperor time and again through stories, healings, and parables proclaiming to both that there is a new way, a new Leader, and a new Kingdom where all are welcome if they but ask and surrender.
That is not my idea of sane or reasonable and grace is the key to gates of this upside-down Kingdom.
God incarnate is just plain absurd and offensive, screwing up all my preconceived notions of grace – who deserves it, who gets it and who does not. God messes with my plans, confuses me and makes me uncomfortable.
And then there are those who follow Jesus – those who would try and tame God, sanitize him, even deputize and moralize him, making God into an Uncle Sam savior or a Pinocchio wrapped in Levi’s, a goatee, hipster glasses and mod rock music.
Hmmm…try and tame a tiger and risk losing your hand. Try taming God and risk losing everything…and gaining even more.
God is unreasonable. God is absurd. And God is offensive.
And thank God for that! And if God were not, we’d all be doomed. For grace is the outflow of God’s unreasonableness. So therefore grace is not reasonable either.
Grace can be absurd. God’s love is absurd as well. Why would Jesus of Nazareth live a life that he did: loving the unlovable, defying social convention and norms, threatening the state simply by the love he showered upon people when he healed them, only to be executed for sedition. Why?
It is absurd that one must die for the many to live.
I will say this as plain and simple as I can, again and again: grace is absurd and offensive. And way too many of us spend too much time trying to ‘figure’ it out rather than experiencing it; far too many try and control it foolishly, like gripping sand tightly hoping to prevent it slipping from their hands rather than just sink into it like a soft, warm blanket on a crisp Winter day.
Originally written and posted December 24, 2014
“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (The Good News of Luke 1: 67-79)
“God became one of us and…pitched his tent in our midst.” – Clarence Jordan (taken from the Cotton Patch Sermons)
Since Christmas Eve is actually the last day of Advent, I thought I would muse a bit about the spectacular nature of this Sacred Season. So, this morning I received an email and in it this pastor was saying that no words can adequately convey God’s love for human life. I thought to myself that he may be right; no mere words can truly express God’s desire to be so close to us and to love us. My first thought was well the Incarnation is as good as it gets in describing that truth.
Think about it: God wanted to be so close to you and me that God put on flesh and became one of us! Pause for just a moment and really ponder that truth, the truth of what Christmas is ALL about. Ponder and personalize it:
God wanted you to know how much you are loved, wanted to be so near you, so much so that God put on flesh and became just like you.
God spared NO expense to be close to us, to love us, to show that love to us! Now even if you do not believe in the virgin birth or that the Incarnation is real, still ponder the notion that God would do such a thing to prove his love to you and me.
That truth to me makes this a time of true hopefulness – a kairos moment pregnant with God. Kairos, the Greek word for time, is unlike the human concept of time, chronos, meaning “chronological time.” Kairos has to do with a divine visitation, a rending of the veil of human time when God comes to dwell among his people in an extraordinary way. The Incarnation is a Kairos moment that happened at a specific chronological time…an Infinite Moment held delicately within a finite one. It’s downright scandalous.
The Incarnation is both mind-boggling and paradox. Mind boggling in that almighty God would actually limit Godself by becoming flesh; paradox in that God comes to us through the fragile vulnerability of a helpless, newborn child who is Messiah. And the paradox of the Incarnation continues: God did not choose to come as a powerful military King Messiah ready to liberate the Jewish people with force from the brutal and ongoing occupation of the Roman Empire.
God, it seems, had different plans.
Instead, God chose to come to us as a naked, helpless baby born to a poor, unwed disenfranchised teenage mother in a land under the oppressive occupation of an Empire. That fact alone defies all logic and reason. Who would be more marginalized and dispossessed than Mary? Who could be farther from the seat of power? But it within this zeitgeist that the Incarnation happens; God did not come as a warrior God with a large army, a boon of gold, and a taste for control.
No, God came to us, as one of us, choosing to make himself known in fragility and poverty – a far cry from how most people thought Messiah would come.
Every year at Advent we are offered the chance for reflecting on how God came to us then, and how God continues to come to us now: in helplessness; in the tenderness of new life given during a dark time; in the promise of hope when all seems lost.
And let us remember too that Advent is an opportunity for us to remember during darker days that God is asking us again to allow our very lives to become, like Mary, a sacred womb where Hope can be born anew within us and indeed within the world.
“Advent is a season of the secret of Divine Love growing in Silence…” Anonymous
Advent, from the Latin word adventus, means “a coming.” In the busy days of the Christmas season, it seems Advent has become more of ‘a coming and going and rushing about’ than a pregnant pausing to celebrate the birth of Divine Hope.
One of the things that bothers me the most about this time of year, more than the blatant and rampant consumerism, is the edgy “busy’ness” of it all. Like hamsters on a treadmill going nowhere fast, we run from store to store, party to party, event to event, never taking the time to pause and reflect upon the momentous occasion of the true “Coming” that this season is based upon.
Advent was and is meant to be a time of pausing, a time of seeking the Great Silence away from the rush and temptation of every little thing that tugs at our attention.
Advent is about taking the time to ‘stop’ time: to reflect upon the miracle of the Infinite rending the veil of time, thereby making all that is finite holy and sacred.
Advent is a time of deepening spirituality. And rather than some highfalutin concept, spirituality is more of a Velveteen rabbit-like experience of sensing God’s movement and Love in our lives in ever deepening ways, especially when things seem darkest.
Advent is also a specific “liturgical time” that gives us a chronological space for sensing God’s movement in our lives and in the world around us. It is an intentional time of pausing to look for the Holy in all the ways it is embodied around us. During Advent, we are reminded to allow the Spirit to transform our lives into “living mangers” – places where Christ can be born anew and afresh in us and in a world crying out for divine love.
This time of year is a time for seeking and seeing all the ways God comes to us, in tenderness and smallness, in ways and places that we may not normally look for God: places like a manger (a feeding trough to be exact) or the distressing disguise of the homeless; or the numerous people waiting in line at the soup kitchen or the forgotten and lonely or those struggling with addictions or the person next to us in line at the store. All of these are moments when we can both see and be Christ.
In these last days of Advent, may this be a time when God comes to each and every one of us in deliberate ways, ways known only to us, special ways that afford us the opportunity to renew our faith, discovering the depths and richness of God’s love and compassion for us and the world.
So as we continue to journey on into these days of Advent, let us all pause…
and take time…
to recognize the Holy Presence that surrounds us.
I believe we were created by God to flourish and to do good in a world full of abundance. Yet so many of us feel stressed, crunched, and perplexed around issues of time, money and creating a meaningful life.
However, I do believe that there are practical mystics who have gone before us and showed us there is a trusted path for recovering this life I believe we were created for: a life of meaning, freedom, and compassion.
Much like A.A.’s “Simple but not easy” truth, the foundations of this adventurous Journey are soulful practices that are ‘simple but not easy such as:
- free-flowing gratitude;
- radical trust in God;
- contentment with what is;
- surrender; and