Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mind the Gap

So last week I preached a sermon at Camas Friends about a topic that is near and not so dear to my heart... the annoying gap between theory and practice (a title borrowed from This American Life). The topic was about Sabbath, the text Exodus(don't worry, I won't give you all the details). Sabbath, in Hebrew understanding is this kind of symbolic return to a time when cosmic harmony was a reality. On the seventh day, God rested and all was right with the world. Sabbath is meant to remind us of that reality and that possibility. This one big shot Theologian put it this way, “The seventh day celebrates the possibility that the grandeur of God’s cosmic designs may be matched by the commitment of creation to live in harmony within God’s world.” The first Sabbath was finally celebrated in the dessert right after God rained mysterious bread called Manna, literally translated "what-is-it." Sabbath is first mentioned in the second chapter of Genesis and isn't celebrated until after the Exodus, isn't that strange? Why all those chapters and centuries later?

The gap...

The gap between the ideal and the reality. The justice and harmony and beauty and freedom that we get a glimpse of in the creation poem is thrown in chaos by the Fall (whatever our theological perspectives are, we feel it don't we). T.S. Eliot writes about it this way:

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the shadow

Has something like this ever happened to you...You get really invested, you put your heart into something and then you experience the gap between theory and practice. You experience...the shadow, the let down. Sometimes it's just annoying. Sometimes it's heart wrenching. Sometimes, on a cosmic scale, it can be catastrophic. Like God has this big, ambitious, grand, beautiful, idea. Maybe the angels are thinking you’re crazyYou're seriously leaving this whole thing, the whole order of creation to these fragile furless creatures that can’t even keep themselves warm. Yes. God does. And yes...bad stuff happens. And this pattern keeps getting repeated… I mean on and on and on. Creation, Fall, Redemption. New creation, Fall, Redemption. The Ideal keeps getting squashed by The Reality and then the disappointment sets in. And this cycle would continue in our lives if God didn’t initiate Rescue, Redemption, New Possibilities, New Patterns… God keeps sneaking in and doing something shocking and beautiful to break us out of our patterns.

There is this group called Improv Everywhere. They create elaborate scenes that they call missions (really something between mission and prank). In one scene they coordinate droves of people getting out of cars with no pants. Then, suddenly another groups of people come on scene and start shouting pants for sale. We've got pants. Short ones, long ones...fat ones, skinny ones. In another mission, they stage a large fake audience for an unheard of band (unbeknownst to them) and shout and cheer as if they were the Beatles. In another they celebrate a guys birthday who they randomly pick out from a bar and call him Todd. Everyone knows Todd. They love Todd. They give him presents, a cake, hugs, high-fives. Girls are giving him phone numbers...He keep worrying that the real Todd is going to show up and catch him hugging his friends and blowing out his candles. At first Todd (real name Chris) tries to explain that he is not Todd, but eventually, he says, "It was pretty much my only option. I think that was the moment of the shift, was kind of realizing that I was like, OK, well, if they all think I'm Ted, then what the hell.”

The creator of Improv everywhere and one of its mad agents has this someone lofty goal for why they do what they do. He says, “I want to live in a world where anything can happen. ..It's like giving people a small, unexpected gift, and in the process, making the world seem a bit more enchanted.” -Gorge Just

Maybe God is like that… giving people small, or sometimes huge unexpected gifts…to show the world that anything can happen…and in these moments we are filled with hope and it seems like it really is within our reach. Jesus came with this sort of mission in mind to show people that world is far more enchanted than we have come to believe or in His worlds that the Kingdom of God is at hand, or within reach, or among us…

As for me, I know about my own tendencies toward reckless idealism. But, what are my options really? Should I just succumb to the bitter reality? I can remember so many times hearing about how things work in the real world. And something deep inside of me kind of recoils (maybe too strong a word).

After seven years of full time ministry, I am now in a gap place of sorts for myself. I have some space for thinking and dreaming. I also have all these good and lofty intentions about how I want to use my time, which leads to me then facing the reality of my own shadow, fragility, etc. But I can't help but wonder if, despite myself, God might have something up His proverbial sleeve, and I look forward to seeing what kind of pranks God might pull.

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