Scripture reading for today:
Be a Holy Fool
Today’s reflection is based on Jude, that tiny one-chapter letter in the New Testament we mostly skip over to get to the metaphorical circus of Revelation. This is fitting, however, because Jude was a Holy Fool. I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book called Talking to Strangers. In the book, Gladwell describes the concept of the Holy Fool or yurodivy in Eastern Orthodox asceticism. The Holy Fool is the eccentric whistleblower that stands just far enough outside of the seats of power and status to not get much notice. They don’t play on the same social and political ladders that many of us play on. Most often they seem a bit off, sort of like Old Testament Ezekiel who decided to snack on a parchment scroll (good fibre) or Isaiah who wandered around naked. We can’t forget Jeremiah who hid his undies under a rock and then went back to retrieve them after a long period of time. Weirdos.
Holy Fools seem to have this almost uncanny clairvoyance. They are like the child who casually asked why the emperor is naked when everyone else kept their mouths shut and played the game. The Holy Fool blows the whistle on those unhealthy, unholy, and unrighteous things in our lives or in our culture that tend to hide in plain sight to the rest of us. Why do they see what the majority of us tend to overlook? Because they aren’t so enmeshed with the system and the striving that tends to ensnare the rest of us. Jude was a Holy Fool calling out and blowing the whistle on the spiritual diseases of his day that were infecting his flock.
Jude, in verses 18-19, calls out the cancerous spirit of divisiveness destroying the unity of his community. Possessed by the unholy spirit of discord these ‘scoffers’ were turning people against each other. Sound familiar? Maybe they were ones drawing lines in the sand to signify who’s in and who’s out. Maybe they were wall building to separate the good people from the bad people. Whatever the tactics, Jude’s whistle blowing was hotly equating the sin of these dividers with fire, wretched permanent stains, stinking flesh, and those devoid of the Holy Spirit. Gulp.
In many ways, our culture loves the idea of the Holy Fool who speaks out that all is not right. We live in a call-out culture. We love the expose. We ride the rage wave each news cycle on social media. We tend to pile on, it helps us feel. Even followers is Jesus mimic the broader culture.
Did you hear about that cranky Church leader with their antiquated views of women!?! Rage wave.
Did you see the latest tweet from pastor so-and-so peddling their prosperity smoke and mirrors!?! Rage wave.
What about those White Evangelical Trump supporters in the States!?! Rage Wave.
It feels good to rage. The world is not right and naming it in a loud roar or with a smug tweet somehow keeps us from too easily accepting what feels so true about most of our world.
I knew this rage wave quite well in my younger days. One of my daughters was born when I was in my late 20s. Addison was born with a very scary medical condition that came with a promise of a very uncertain future for her and for us. We were terrified of the unknown and the broken. My 27-year-old self began to see clearer than ever before that all was certainly not right in my experience of a very broken world. The more I saw my family reality was not right, the more I saw the myriad of not right things in the world around me. I raged loudly for a few years and I probably needed to do that. Social media became the daily firepit to warm the embers of my rage.
Today, the spirit of our age has caused us to believe if we don’t rage loudly we are somehow accepting things as they are, and giving up on things as they should be.
The problem today is the same one that Jude was blowing the whistle on. The rage wave divides us into polarized in-groups and out-groups, turning proverbial brother against brother. I realize that none of us reading this reflection actually want to perpetuate this problem, and we need the Holy Fools out there to call us to a bigger truth. The world as we find it is packed full of injustice, divisions, oppression, wreaking stains, and corruptible flesh. But Jude as a Holy Fool was not just blowing the whistle on the rage waves of his day he was also calling out the larger truth, “. . . by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire. . .”.
Jude is not trying to match rage for rage, rather, he’s trying to match a smaller truth with a bigger truth. The smaller truth is that the world is melting down, people are getting hurt, there is a disease in the human community, and the world is not as it should be. The larger truth is not spoken with the ferocity of the rage wave, but calmly spoken with childlike confidence, “keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life, that’s all.” The Holy Fool reminds us what seems most real (and is real) is not what is most true about ourselves; is not what is most true about our proverbial sisters and brothers; is not what is most true about the course of history.
The world needs us to become the Holy Fools who blow the whistle on goodness, beauty, mercy, and Kingdom come while blowing the whistle on evil, ugly, stains, and corruptible flesh. The Holy Fool does both because the Holy Fool isn’t wearing the same truth blinders as everyone else.
This Advent we celebrate the ultimate Holy Fool who is Jesus. Jesus as God’s Holy Fool stood outside of the fray and was able to join as one of us and not one of us. Jesus stayed far enough in the eternal reality to not be so enmeshed in the anxious systems and rage waves that characterized his cultural moment. Can we learn from this? Jesus comes to us incognito, subverting and exposing the powers and principalities of the empire. In his birth, he whispers like a child that all is not right and, in his death, and resurrection he blows the whistle exposing the ultimate reality of the universe.
The ultimate destination of reality is not ugly wrenched stains but rather beauty, sacrificial love, mercy awaiting our arrival, and resurrected renewal of all things. Jesus as the Holy Fool reveals all of that. Can you see it? This Advent can you join Jesus and a long line of Holy Foolery blowing the whistle on the rage wave by calling out the things that are most true and most good and most beautiful in God, in others, and in ourselves.
Thank you for reading the New Leaf Advent Reader, a collection of reflections from writers across Canada. If you are enjoying the reader, sign up to receive the readings in your inbox each day here: SIGN UP And please share this reflection with your friends and family who might also enjoy it.