My experience of Church has primarily been in the pentecostal/evangelical tradition. In our view, high church liturgical calendar events were viewed as part of the beliefs of those who were liberal, even “lukewarm” (as in the description in Revelation 3), who’d lost their zeal and probably were not “really saved.” There was a desperation to our desire to remain zealous that seems common among fundamentalist traditions. On the other hand, my husband’s journey has included time spent in the Anglican church, as well as other high church traditions, giving him (shall we say) a somewhat different perspective on liturgical calendar events.
Since we married, one of the liturgical calendar events I’m gaining more exposure to is the observation of Advent. In exploring the meaning of Advent, I’ve been reading various blog articles and devotions focused on this season. One I read last month was written by a faculty member at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She focused on the humanity Jesus embraced as He was born, and how His willingness to be humble in this way is the foundation for the idea of living a “quiet life” as Paul instructed the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12). She pointed out that by becoming human as well as divine, Jesus humbled Himself to live as a human, growing as a human, growing in favour as a human (emphasis mine). Her contention was that in living His life in an ordinary, quiet way, Jesus gave us the example that living out our lives quietly pleases the Father. My description of this is that as we do our work, pay our bills, contribute to our communities, we earn the respect of our neighbours and confirmation from God that we are following His design.
After many years of public ministry, in this season of my life I’m now determining how I intend to live out my beliefs without a recognized role in the Church. As I’ve meditated on the idea of living a quiet life to glorify God, a life that might even be characterized as mundane, I’ve discovered some uncomfortable truths. I’ve recognized that my private desire to live an unordinary, “noisy” life, has been rationalized as somehow bringing greater glory to God. My life and my thoughts have been influenced by the culture around me, rather than by the example of Jesus…..the one I want to be replicating. I’ve bought into the same misguided attitude that has produced the modern phenomenon of the celebrity minister. What does it say about us that many of our Churches have a gift shop in the lobby so they can sell books written by the minister? How are we glorifying God when we advertise celebrity-minister-led trips to the Holy Land that allow the “fans” to pay for the privilege of spending time with the object of their adulation? In North America we are wealthy and many Christ followers have the ability and opportunity to live lavishly. When a Christ follower chooses to live lavishly, what are we to think when we hear that person describe being questioned about their lifestyle as somehow being persecuted because they are a Christ follower???
The example of Jesus’ life stands in stark contrast to our society’s culture of celebrity addiction. We are surrounded by this focus on celebrity. This perspective seeps into how we make decisions and set priorities, influencing how we determine what is normal and worthy of pursuit. Only intentional, focused meditation on the example Jesus gave us can help me surrender myself to God, allowing Him to restore the ability He created within me to reflect His image into the community that surrounds me. This is my highest purpose.