Science has shown that the old “boiling frog” story is incorrect. The canard goes like this, “if you place a frog in cold water and then slowly heat it, the frog will simply adjust and then be boiled alive”. In truth, frogs (like people) do jump out before death, if they can escape the container. But the metaphor still holds. We often allow ourselves to become acclimated to disastrous change because we simply do not perceive the threat until it is too late. Faith is similarly subject to such a death because faith requires practice: the practices of worship, study, prayer, and fellowship with our sisters and brothers is crucial to maintaining and growing our faith lives. Without such practices, our faith, our trust in God, our sense of the presence of God will wither and become weak and faint.
This Sunday we lit the Advent candle associated with peace. Peace also takes practice because we live in a violent world. A number of years ago, a wonderful theologian and teacher, Dr. Mary E. Hunt, observed that “violence is the norm and justice is episodic”. I was astonished to discover that I too was under the delusion that this world is a just place that is occasionally beset by episodes of violence and war. The more I pondered her assertion, the more I began to recognize that peace – real peace – not white-knuckled, hold-your-breath until its’ over “peace” – is not only episodic, it is a bit rare. Like most rare things, peace requires consistent attention and extravagant nurture. We can only become peacemakers when we commit to it with all our hearts, minds, and bodies. And we have to practice it with small things in order to be able to practice it when the stakes are higher and the choices more narrow. It isn’t easy. Most of us – me for sure – will fail on a regular basis. We will lash out at those we love, bear grudges against coworkers who treat us badly, and offer unbridled scorn to those with whom we do not agree.
As we wait for the birth of the Christ child, may we all become better peacemakers, one day, one hour, one candle at a time.