Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
"Be strong, do not fear!
- Isaiah 35:3.4
This coming Sunday is sometimes called "Stir Up Sunday," because the opening collect says, "Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us." All of the readings have some reference to either weakness or greatness. It is a Sunday to stir up our faith in the strength of God instead of in our own strength - to recognize our weakness as broken human beings and the salvation that can come only from God.
But the image of being stirred up is not necessarily a comforting one. We get stirred up when we are upset, disappointed, or anxious. We get stirred up when we are angry or hurt or afraid. And I've been thinking about this lately, because it seems that the world has been mightily stirred up. Political unrest, mass migration, violence, prejudice and hate have all been stirred up among us in recent times.
This makes me wonder if God has some kind of different way of stirring us up. Perhaps God has some magical and positive way of agitation that brings us closer to God and one another in something more like a worldwide Kym-bay-a moment? And in his letter, St. James tells us this Sunday to be patient until the coming of the Lord. Is that what we are praying and waiting for? For some new and unexpected kind of pleasant stirring to occur? Or - might the anxious, stirred up state that we are already all too familiar with in life actually be the portal to God's power and strength - and to a new life in God? In other words, could the stirred up unrest we feel these days, as much as we'd prefer to avoid it, be the very way means by which God wakes us up and calls us closer?
If that is the case, then God is knocking on our doors pretty hard these days. During Advent, we are given the opportunity to pause and consider how we will respond to the things that stir up our lives or arouse our sense of injustice. Do we react by closing the doors or circling the wagons, trying to remain in our private place of comfort? Do we try to hold on tighter and tighter to our own strenght and control? Or could God be asking us to open up in a new way, laying down our own strength and allowing God's strength to carry us and show us the way?
Come in from the storm and lay your burdens down at the altar this Sunday and be fed by God's living bread.