In his instruction to the disciples this morning, Jesus of Nazareth tells them of persecution and the opportunity to testify. In our days, testifying would mean weeks of careful preparation, of setting down fact beside fact to illustrate a story, a picture, that gives the truth of a matter and proof of the case presented. That’s probably true for days past. In fact, Jesus says, “So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to understand or contradict.” By endurance, the disciples will gain their souls.
I completely understand that today.
I won’t go into the gory details of life in America right now. It’s horrifying to say the truth. Bigotry and racism have come front and center and for some it’s okay. I know it isn’t. What I have come to understand that there is nothing I can say in defense of my faith as a Christian to this population, or even the person on the street. To be a Christian is to be a conservative, intolerant, ignorant, jerk in some peoples’ minds.
It couldn’t be farther from the truth where it concerns my denomination and many, many, of my Christian sisters and brothers.
I, and so many like me, try my best every day to live out the Gospel. When I say ‘living out the Gospel’ I mean doing my best to live a life directed by the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. This kind of life is difficult even on good days because we are called to love one another, to love our enemies and to seek Christ in others. To do this, you have to take off the 21st armor made of cynicism, indifference and fear and allow yourself to be led. Allow yourself to be taught. Allow yourself to look up from the smartphone screen as you walk down the street and actually LOOK at faces. Maybe even smile and say hello.
I’ve learned from experience that for me this is the best apology for Christianity. Rather than spell it out in paragraphs of history and doctrine, show it. In writing fiction, we are advised to show, not tell. We show our readers a scene, an emotion, a person. That’s how I’m going to do it. How I do it will depend on the situation, the moment.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the solemn season of preparation and anticipation of the Incarnation. It leads us to Christmas. ‘That time of year’ when we wish one another peace on earth and good will toward all. Advent prepares us to carry that sentiment through the next 365 days of the year. One way of looking at it is to empty the heart of expectation and allow anticipation. Let the words be written on us by a different pen. Let the Word be the words we speak. We prepare without preparation and let God lead us unconditionally.
We do not rehearse. We do not study. We allow it to happen.