There are very few things for which I don’t have at least a passing interest. I think I can trace this back to when I was a kid. We had a few books at home which consisted mainly of Bibles and a set of the World Book Encyclopedia. There was the local library, but you weren’t allowed to leave the children’s section until you turned 12. So, I read the encyclopedia. No kidding. A – Z. I’m essentially self-taught in a little bit of a lot of things. My problem has become time. I don’t have enough time to read all of the stuff about all of the things I would like to know more about.
For me, thinking about God isn’t limited to thinking about traditionally “religious” things or ideas. For me, thinking about God is thinking about astronomy and art [while I’m a fan of paintings, sculpture fascinates me endlessly], architecture and biology, chemistry and physics. Politics and history, economics [of course!], money and banking [which isn’t the same as economics, by the way]. Our family is really into sports [I wish I had thought of sabermetrics], fishing is a little slow for my taste, my friend Liz has taken me quail hunting, but I need to work harder at my aim…. Plumbing, electricity and brick laying have caught my attention [Winston Churchill was also a bricklayer] and I have books about all of them. In fact, I have books about a lot of things. If you know something about something, I’d like to know. I’m probably interested.
Something that frustrates me is that as Christians, as church people, we have tended to separate all of these things out of our religious experience. We think of God and worship and theology as their own, separate category. In some ways, they may be. Theology is its own piece of intellectual knowledge, but it feels that in the realm of the church, we’ve done a superlative job of keeping church business separate from the rest of our world. Too often, we’ve failed to allow our theological imagination to be touched by architecture and physics and biology and even good plumbing. And I think this has had disastrous consequences for us. Too few Christians think seriously about science, so we make few contributions there. Too often, we’ve set the idea of being a Christian over and against other people and created strange categories this way. Too often, it feels like this way of thinking has turned us into compartmentalized people. We think about the world, even mundane things over here and we think about God over there. Is it possible to do both at the same time? I wonder.
What if we thought of our lives, our faith, our Church, our world in a more integrated way? What do you think that might look like? I’d like to know. And if you’ve written a book, I’d probably like to read it.
It’s been a sort of strange week for me. I’ve noticed that the time after major church festivals [Christmas, Easter] tend to be a little weird for me. I think that the frenetic business of those seasons distracts me from the world happening around me. It caught up with me this week.
On Wednesday, I was overwhelmed with the number of community neighbors at our Wednesday evening meal. The number of people hoping for a good meal and a friendly face felt much larger than usual. While I was at dinner I spoke with a guy who got a job in another community but needed a bus ticket to get there. We don’t generally assist with transportation [for a number of reasons] issues, and when I told him he proceeded to use his phone for the online equivalent of a payday loan that will charge him 45% interest. Later that evening I listened to the conversation at the Race Dialogue we are sponsoring and was despairing over how improbable progress in our communities over the issue of race [or anything that makes one person seem different from another, for that matter] seems. By Thursday morning the only thing that got me to work was that I needed to finish Sunday’s sermon, so it could be included in our weekly mailing to our homebound members.
It was good I came to work [other than it is my job and I’m responsible for a lot of things…]. I saw our volunteers helping with our assistance program, welcoming people much different than themselves. I saw Open Doors volunteers chatting and glad to help open up our church to the city. I got an email from a member chatting about Easter Sunday and how she had been telling co-workers about it and about the things happening at Trinity. Most intriguingly, I got an email from a college student I had a conversation with earlier in the week in regard to a theology class.
The student had been required to go to a church and then talk with a pastor from that church. This had taken place on Tuesday. In the midst of the conversation it became clear that this young person had given up on church and didn’t find it terribly interesting but was willing to talk about that. God was the issue, and the way church has talked about God. “I’m ok with Jesus, I don’t think I can believe in God,” she said. I said, “Jesus believed in God. Maybe the place to start with God is where Jesus starts with God and work from there.” I could tell it was a startling way of looking at this question. I got this email:
“I wanted to thank you for meeting with me. I loved how you explained Jesus’ representation of God. It gave me a whole new perspective of God. I enjoyed Trinity’s Sunday worship, everyone I spoke with were genuinely kind people. I have recommended friends/family to Trinity because I think they would really appreciate Trinity’s congregation.
G.K. Chesterton [an early 20th century essayist, social critic, philosopher and Christian] once wrote, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” Being a Christian is hard because it opens your eyes to the world in dramatic ways. It can lead to feelings of depression because one sees the world with new eyes and with the palpable sense that I am sharing this world. It challenges our vision and our response to what we see. It’s easy [much easier, in fact] to close your eyes to the world.
At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus caught a couple of people following him [one of them was St. Andrew]. The story goes this way, “Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, ‘What do you seek?’ And they said to him ‘Rabbi’ [which means Teacher], ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’” [St. John 1:38-39] As we know, they came to see a lot of things. If you follow Jesus, you’re going to see a lot of things. Occasionally, it will be hard to get up in the morning. But a lot of people have thought it’s worth trying. I agree.