Wednesday, January 08, 2014

A Spiritual 'Polar Vortex'

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering . . . (Hebrews 10:23).

I’ve added a new phrase to my vocabulary this week: ‘Polar Vortex’

I’m writing this on a day when I woke up to a temperature reading of 8 degrees. Some have said it was actually colder than that. The culprit: ‘Polar vortex’ – a system of strong counterclockwise winds that typically surround the northern pole. Somehow that mass of frigid air got lost and wandered down to Georgia.

Once things get this cold down here the actual temperature hardly matters. The simple truth is that we’re not equipped to deal with this kind of thing. As I write the skies are sunny and the roads, for the most part, are clear and dry – but area schools are closed. Our neighbors to the north mock this. But school administrators, not to mention parents, are not going to have kids waiting on busses in single digit temps. Said another way, few of us are dressed for the occasion.

But occasions like this are rare in these parts, and that’s the good news. This kind of weather is an anomaly. The polar vortex will soon make its way back where it belongs and the Sunbelt will get back to its comfortably ‘chilly’ winter.

I wish the same could be said for the spiritual climate in which we’re living these days.

A ‘religio-cultural’ polar vortex has moved into North America and Europe. Just as much of the country is in the grip on an arctic air mass, North America and Europe are in the grip of ‘Post-Christendom.’

There is however one significant difference. Post-Christendom is not going away. We will not soon be returning to a more familiar and Christianized culture in America and Europe. The climate has changed – and we had better learn how to dress for the occasion.

In his book Exiles, author and Professor Michael Frost says it like this:

There is barely a congregation or Christian organization that has not bemoaned the waning impact of the Christian story upon American or Western society. And although many Christian voices are calling us back to the days when the church occupied a position of power and influence over Western society, nobody with any real sense of history believes we can save Christendom . . . The Christendom era, like Rome, has fallen (pp. 6-7).
So what does this have to do with you? Given the climate we’re living in, there are two mistakes we need to avoid. One of those mistakes is to stay indoors. In the current climate there are Christians who dig in and hunker down. Their posture is protective and defensive. Their demeanor is anxious.

The second mistake is to try desperately to accommodate the climate. We humans can live with arctic air, but we can’t live in it – at least not for long. Well intentioned efforts to live in a post- Christian world can sometimes lead us to stop being truly Christian.

Following Jesus is an uncomfortable calling. It means living in tension – faithful to the gospel while loving our world. That’s what we want to be learning more about in the days to come.

So how are you doing in the current climate? Which of these two mistakes are you most likely to make?

We ask you, O God, to make us equal to the times in which we live. Keep us faithful to the gospel and fill us with compassion for this world. Remind us daily that you are alive and well in every climate, in every place. Sustain our hope, we ask in Jesus’s name. Amen.

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