On a Sunday when John the Baptist's call
for repentance roars in our ears, we need reminders of the precedence of
gift, the prevenience of grace. For John's sermonic cry to "prepare the
way of the Lord" can seem all task and no gift. It calls out the Pelagian in all
of us, the voluntarist who wants to build the kingdom. Careless hearing leads
us to imagine that if we "make his paths straight," he will come.
On this second Sunday of Advent, perhaps the paraments should be red rather than blue or purple. Red has become our Holy Spirit hue, the liturgical color that accompanies occasions of heightened concentration on pneumatological presence and power. Hanging red isn't like firing a signal flare, as if the Spirit has suddenly been glimpsed after a long absence or concealment.
I’ve been following the buzz surrounding Willow Creek Church’s newest
“highly effective” way of doing church, an initiative called Reveal: Where are you?
After a generation of numerical “success,” Willow Creek Church has
apparently learned that attracting large numbers of people is not the
same as forming faithful disciples of Jesus.
Isaiah gives us a vision of what the new anointed one will be like, what gifts he will have and how he will be someone run by Elsewhere—not by the criteria of groupthink, of lobbying groups. His criteria will give voice to the meek who have no voice and don’t know how to use a voice. His words will become the criteria for everything, much to the dismay of the wicked.