Advent Reflection for December 13: A Threshing
by Charles Burre
I can relate to Isaiah’s prophecy that the Lord would make His people a threshing sledge that would separate the wheat from the chaff. As I continue on my faith journey, many of my long-held opinions and beliefs have crumbled and been dispersed in the wind due to the witness of Christian people whose beliefs and actions are closer to the teaching of Jesus.
I grew up as a Protestant in the “red-state heartland.” I adhered to, and nurtured, a conservative-Republican philosophy up until the last ten or fifteen years. In my twenties I read all of William Buckley’s books as well as National Review every fortnight. What attracted me to these writers, in addition to their generally Republican-sounding views, was that they often brought faith and theology into the discussion. In matters of world affairs and wars, I always supported the actions of our nation.
In the last several years, I have found myself re-examining many of these viewpoints and listening more and more to the views of other leaders and writers, people whom I used to write-off as naive, “bleeding-hearts” or having self-centered political ambitions.
Perhaps the sharpest of the threshing sledges that has been pounding on me lately has been Chris Haw’s book From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart. While born a Catholic, Chris joined an Evangelical mega-church in his teen years, during which he found a faith-community that instilled in him the message of the gospel and caused him to become involved several social causes. However, he saw that many of his evangelical brethren did not always practice what Jesus preached particularly when it came to the matter of national revenge after 9/11. Chris has devoted his life and resources to improving the most neglected of neighborhoods in Camden, NJ. There he began worship in the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and came back to sacramental union with the Church. He has delved deeply into church history and theology throughout his life and ministries and has written one of the most cogent apologies for Roman Catholicism that I have ever read. I wondered how he had time to do this, but then I’m sure he didn’t let the worldly things that have occupied so much space in my life do so in his.
Earlier this year I received another threshing as I listened to A Good Man, the biography of Sargent Shriver by his son Mark. Mark tells the story of the faith of his father, which motivated him to accomplish so much for the underprivileged in the world: e. g., the Peace Corps and the many civil right causes which he championed . I thought to myself: years ago I would have said; “These are just a bunch of Kennedys trying to gather a few more votes.” Having listened to this book, however, I have come to realize that people like Shriver are truly trying to live as Jesus taught.
I don’t mean to espouse one political philosophy or one faith over another here. There are certainly many sincere people across the spectrum working for the good of all or for what they believe to be God’s will. What I think is important is for us to critically evaluate our beliefs, actions, and their consequences against what Jesus taught. We need to be willing to listen to rebels like John the Baptist and “hear with our ears.”