Startled, Challenged and Disturbed

Yesterday I attended an Episcopal service with my friends Richard and Russell at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Minneapolis; I had been looking for an opportunity to hear the preaching of the rector of their church, whose sermons I have read online on a number of occasions (thanks to Richard’s kindness in sending the links to me). I was not disappointed; her sermon gave me much fruit for prayer and I suspect some of it will make its way into a blog post at some point. But not today.

Among the things that struck me during the service was the Affirmation of Faith. The affirmation (written by David Aquilina, a member of the St. John’s community) declares the people’s faith in the Trinity in words somewhat different from those we recite in the Nicene Creed each week at Mass, although there was nothing in those words I could not be comfortable as a Catholic claiming belief in. What struck me, though, was that in each of the paragraphs (one each devoted to God, Jesus and the Spirit), there was a line that suggested disruption of the normal ways.

…You startled [our ancestors] in suprising revelations…

…You challenge us to hear and to see with new hearts…

…You disturb us…

It is easy for us to become settled in our ways, to become complacent, to think things are good enough. We don’t particularly like change and upset; feeling settled is much more to our liking. It is, you have to admit, a whole lot easier than the alternative.

But if we are actually listening to God, we will be unsettled. Startled. Challenged. Disturbed. That’s what God does. Fortunately, God doesn’t leave us alone to sort through the challenge and disturbance. We have always within us the presence of the Spirit (paraphrasing the final paragraph of the Affirmation of Faith), the breath of God that dispels fear, refreshes us and empowers us.

Update: I just read the Daily Meditation of Richar Rohr I receive by e-mail from the Center for Action and Contemplation. In part the reflection reads: “[W]e have often settled for the sweet coming of a baby who asked little of us in terms of surrender, encounter, mutuality or any studying of the Scriptures or the actual teaching of Jesus. This is what I am inviting you to this Advent. But be forewarned: the Word of God confronts, converts, and consoles us—in that order. The suffering, injustice and devastation on this planet are too great now to settle for any infantile gospel or any infantile Jesus.”