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A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery

Holy Longing, Part II: Holy Disruption
December 7, 2017

We recently moved my parents to a new home in a Senior Independent Living complex. It is a wonderful place in countless ways. Their apartment is lovely, they have regular housekeeping and laundry service, they are served delicious meals in the central dining room, free transportation is provided to stores, malls, medical offices, churches, and entertainment venues. The staff are friendly, they have made new friends with other residents, and the list of benefits goes on and on.

But when we first contemplated the move, all we could see was how much they would be losing by leaving their home. Were it not for our encouraging one another forward, the move would never have happened, and living in their own home would have grown increasingly difficult. We had to be ready to embrace massive disruption and loss, before they could experience the gains they are now enjoying.

There is no sugarcoating the disruption. It was hard on us all. Some things that were precious to us needed to be set aside. They were of no real benefit to us, apart from their sentimental value. Still, parting with them was painful.

When Jesus comes to make things right, the world as we know it gets turned upside down. We say we long for the justice, peace, and joy of his kingdom (Romans 14:17), but are we willing to embrace the disruption to our status quo that entering his kingdom entails? Jesus says that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich – that is, those who want to keep things just as they are – to enter the kingdom of God. (Luke 18:25)

When Jesus makes something new of us, we will in turn change the world around us. Both secular and religious authorities did all they could to stop the first generation of Christians from spreading their message, because they were “turning the world upside down.” (Acts 17:6)

Yes, our world is a mess. Degradation of our environment continues to erode our fragile habitat. Sea levels are rising as the earth warms, threatening the future of many coastlands. Destructive storms are becoming more frequent, intense, and catastrophic. Chances of nuclear warfare are rising sharply after having ebbed for a while. Xenophobia is on the rise globally. Poverty, hunger, and genocide flourish. New revelations of sexual harassment perpetrated by high profile leaders cascade around us. What a mess we’re in!

Yet we try to hang on to things as they are, at least within our modest sphere of influence. In our relationships. In our institutions. In our churches. In our presbytery. Do we really long for the One to come who disrupts everything we currently have in order to give us something far better?

Before his holy kingdom can emerge, there must be a holy disruption of the status quo. This is what happened when Jesus first came. Just ask the moneychangers in the Temple. Just ask the religious leaders whose vanity and hypocrisy he exposed mercilessly. The only thing they could do to ease the disruption he created was to kill him. Little did they imagine that his death would only accelerate his disruption of their world.

As we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” during Advent, let us be clear about what we’re asking for, and what we’re opening ourselves to. Holy disruption. To paraphrase missionary Jim Elliot (1927-1956) are we willing to let go of what we cannot keep, that we might gain what we cannot lose?

Yours in seeking a holy longing,

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, General Minister

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