Out With The Old, In With The New!Fr. Barnabas Powell
Christ is born!
Ever heard of a paradigm shift? It means “a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.” Paradigm shifts occur many times in history, in nations, and in persons, and when they do, they are often disruptive, disturbing, and even unwelcome by many.
In 1962 American physicist Thomas Kuhn coined the phrase to explain how scientific advancement took place. He observed that scientific revolutions happened suddenly and with great effect. Think of the revolution in knowledge and literacy with the invention of the printing press. What was once the rare, expensive, and elite world of owning books, which had to be copied by hand, now, suddenly, was available to everyone. And think of this startling statistic that says human knowledge now doubles (DOUBLES) every 12 months and is heading to doubling every 12 HOURS once the “internet of things” is pressed out! Imagine what we’ll know tomorrow!
Look at our Gospel Lesson in Mark 11:27-33:
At that time, Jesus came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you a question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men? Answer me.” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From men’?” — they were afraid of the people, for all held that John was a real prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Standing in front of these Jewish Leaders was God in the Flesh. I know, I know, this is difficult to grasp. In fact St. Paul says that this is “foolishness” to the Greeks and a “stumbling block” to the Jews (see 1 Corinthians 1:23). Even though the First Testament was filled with hints and prophecies about the coming of the Messiah, using words like His name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace,” (see Isaiah 9:6) their human minds simply could not fathom the paradigm shift in reality and experience that would result if the Uncreated had really stepped into His Creation as part of His Creation! This, of course, is also a huge problem for Islam that simply cannot imagine “Allah” having a “partner.”
But, nonetheless, the weaknesses of Jewish and Muslim theologies, and the philosophical problems of pagan Greece didn’t stop the paradigm shift of God becoming Flesh so that we humans could become “engodded” from happening. And that changed (and continues to change) everything. The fact that some can’t wrap their heads around this mystery doesn’t suddenly make the mystery unreal. It just makes those who can’t stand in the Light of this mystery poverty stricken! More to be pitied, prayed for, loved, and reached out to, than hated.
That’s why the Lord chose to address the question asked of Him by the religious leaders as He did. They couldn’t have heard His answer in the first place. They weren’t ready for the paradigm shift standing in front of them! So, the Lord exposed their unreadiness and spiritual blindness to everyone. Of course, this just made them hate Him all the more.
But that is what usually happens in a paradigm shift. The “status quo” fights like mad (I’m using that word on purpose) to preserve that which is passing away because they can’t conceive what their world would look like without the “status quo.” They live their lives based not on love or hope or enthusiasm, but on fear, and the constant use of their energies fighting a rearguard action to keep things from slipping away from them. When you think about it, it’s kind of sad, really. Just look at the panic in many over the shift in demographics of religious observance in America! Instead of asking how we can better serve this generation with the timeless message of Orthodoxy, the fearful and the blind are scrambling around desperate to preserve the sand slipping through their fingers!
Today, as we say “goodbye” to one year and “hello” to a new year, let’s not be gripped by fear and panic and worry, knowing that history is really “His Story!” And knowing He loves us and our generation more than we, ourselves know how to love. Let’s be about so loving our neighbor that we are diligent to be faithful to our generation by offering them the timeless medicine of Orthodoxy through loving service, creativity and beauty and courage! In 2016 join me in being Orthodox on Purpose no matter what it costs!
P.S. From all of us at Faith Encouraged Ministries, may God grant you and your family a blessed, happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year! It’s the last day for our Matching Gift Opportunity for our Outreach Video Project. All gifts postmarked by today’s date will count! Just go to JourneytoFullness.com and don’t miss your chance to help. By the way, a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT is coming!