Tuesday, March 9, 2010

El Nino

The other day, Jennie and I were chatting on-line, and the conversation wound its way to the weather. Here in the sunny South, we've had an unusually cold and wet winter, the coldest in about thirty years. Jennie said that there in Los Angeles, they had a greater than normal amount of rain the past few months. Every part of the country has been affected by weather patterns that come from a strong El Nino. I remarked to Jennie that El Nino had really disrupted things this winter.

The more I though about it, the more I realized the parallels between the weather pattern known as El Nino and its namesake. El Nino begins around Christmas and the term is Spanish for "the male child," a reference to Jesus Christ. We often think of the Christ child as simply a meek and mild little baby who, according to one popular song, never cried. We love the picture of a baby surrounded by furry farm animals and shepherds, and of course, we miss the point. I think the fact that the name "The (Christ) Child" was given to a weather system that is disruptive is significant.

Jesus Christ did not serenely stride through first century Palestine like some ethereal figure untouched by the world around him. He did not come proclaiming a gospel of escape into another world after death. From his birth, he threw a money wrench into the machinery of the kingdoms of this world. When Herod learned of the birth of this new "king of the Jews" he became so afraid for his own throne that he ordered all of Bethlehem's male children under two years old to be killed. Herod was not just a child abuser. He was a king who was trying to eliminate a rival.

After this, we don't read a lot of Jesus' life growing up, although there was that incident where his parents had to hunt for him in Jerusalem. That caused just a bit of a stir in their lives. Jesus began his ministry by calling people to drop what they were doing and follow him .He then traveled around the country challenging the traditions of the religious leaders. Not only did he challenge tradition, he also took the whole system and interpreted it as pointing to him. That ruffled more than a few feathers.

Jesus didn't exactly make Pilate's life easier when he told Pilate that he was indeed a king, but that his kingdom was not of this world. Even Pilate's wife had a nightmare because of Jesus.
After Jesus left, his followers spread throughout the Roman Empire with the message that the Kingdom of God had come, that Jesus Christ was Lord, not Caesar. They refused to sacrifice to the Emperor, and were persecuted and killed because they were considered treasonous. It was said of the early Christians that they "turned the world upside down."

Just like El Nino, Jesus Christ was a disruptive figure during his time on earth. His followers, if they take seriously the words of their Master, continue to be disruptive. It's hard for us in America to understand living in a hostile environment. America has been a part of Christendom for years, and we have had it easy in a culture that gave lip service to our faith. That is no longer the case. Followers of Jesus are being pushed to the margins, and it may be only a matter of time until we are seen as dangerous because of our allegiance to another King.

Time will tell if the church will strive to keep Christendom together, or will once again be subversive and disruptive, and turn our world upside down.

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