If you’ve ever played games with children you may have found that the rules are often subject to change without warning. Or, there may be a different set of rules for you than for the child. When you draw the blue square card in candy land you just go to the next blue square on the path, but when the child draws, they get to bounce ahead three blue spaces until they’re in a commanding lead. And that’s just the rules.
There’s an innate sense of wanting to control a situation and get what you want on your terms deep in the human experience. When Jesus poses the question, “What are you people like?” and offers the image of children at play he may be referring to the kind of schoolyard contracts of cause and effect. When I play the happy song, you dance. When I play the sad one you cry. But when someone refuses to play by their rules, the social contract is broken, expectations are thwarted and the children are left upset. “I’m taking my ball and going home!” Is the response I can imagine.
It’s this kind of attitude that Jesus points out in the religious leaders who refused to accept John the Baptist because was just a little too intense for them. And couldn’t abide Jesus, because he was far too social. We’ll keep waiting for the “our kind” of prophet. We’re looking for a more “proper” messiah. This doesn’t meet our expectations.
And these expectations and assumptions are little more than premeditated resentments and rejections. Hardly the pliable hearts that are ready to return to the Lord. But it can be hard to make a shift. To break out of a rut we have carved for ourselves. But, that’s what the call of the prophets has often been about. Shaking the people out of sleep into wakefulness. It’s pretty uncomfortable though, and very few prophets were lauded in their own time.
As we choose to take the Advent path again, setting our expectations on the coming of Christ, it may seem like old familiar ground. But somehow, there are more miles behind us and we are not quite the same people we were this time last year. Is there anything new ahead? What would help to shift things for you? What would call you to wakefulness?
There is an inspiring and daunting line in our Rule in the chapter on the Challenges of Life in Community, that says, “Our faithfulness to our calling will be seen in the ways in which we fearlessly subject our life to hard questions in the light of the gospel, resist inertia and rigidity, minister to one another generously as equals, and stay open to the fresh inspiration of the Spirit.”
The promises of Christ and the riches of the Spirit are worth opening our hearts again to the prophets’ call. If we’re willing to do love’s work. If we’re willing to engage, then may Wisdom be vindicated in our deeds too. Amen.
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