Do you find it difficult to think of peace in our world today? Last week we lit the candle of hope. This week we light the candle of peace. Really? It doesn’t seem like there is a lot of peace in our world.
I had the privilege of hanging out with our YOWIES last night. That’s our high school group (Youth On Wednesdays In Easter). Hans, our youth director, invited me to join him to create space for the students to voice their questions and doubts about faith.
I told them the story of when I had my first serious crisis of faith during my sophomore year in college. I was confronted with some theology that challenged my worldview to its core. It was later explained to me that this is a natural process called The Tunnel Of Chaos and we must all pass through it several times in our lives, if we want to live a reflective life of learning and growth.
This metaphor helped visualize what happened to me. The theological worldview that I was given as a child of the church was like a china plate. It was beautiful and perfect. I felt that I knew everything I needed to know about God, the Bible, and…well…everything that mattered eternally. When I hit the tunnel of chaos it was like someone took my plate and shattered it on the ground.
You have two choices when you stare at the shattered plate. You can either a) walk away in dissolutionment and think there is nothing worth believing, or b) do the slow, messy, often painful work of gluing your plate back together. This process requires examining each piece, exploring all the theological possibilities around that piece and deciding how it fits. A humble, diligent pursuit of understanding will lead to a reassembled plate.
Two things are true about this new plate. First, it has holes and is not pretty anymore. That means we will always have unanswered questions in our lives…always. Second, it is much more flexible. The glue that holds the pieces together is God’s grace and an openness to other ideas. The next time your plate falls to the ground, it won’t shatter. It might chip, but it won’t shatter. This is called maturity or wisdom.
I made a purposefully radical statement to the students. I said that God is not perfect. What?!? Perfection, as we typically understand it in our Western society, is not a Biblical concept. It is an abstract idea most famously associated with the Greek philosopher Plato. He believed the physical world was a flawed shadow of the realm of perfection, the divine. Yet, he never figured out how to reach it. Much of Christianity unfortunately adopted his idea of perfection and superimposed it over the Hebrew Scripture and the stories of Jesus. Western Christians have exhausted enormous amounts of energy trying to figure out how God saves us from a broken, imperfect world and brings us “up” to God’s state of perfection. Then we try to create perfect plates to explain the process.
Here’s the thing. Perfection doesn’t exist. The Bible doesn’t tell us that God is perfect. The Bible tells us that God is Love and that the place to which God is bringing us is Shalom, which is the Hebrew word we translate peace.
This morning, as I was reflecting on the conversations from last night and thinking about lighting the candle of peace this weekend, I went to the Bible Project to search for a video. They have done an excellent word study video on peace. I share this video with you.
May you experience the presence of God’s wholeness during this Advent season, and let go of the oppressive ideas of perfection. God is not waiting for you to jump through a hoop, or get your act together so you can be admitted into God’s perfect Kingdom. God is with you, in the mess, and walking with you to help you grow, mature, and become whole.