A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

Invisible paths and standing in the gap March 8, 2014

I don’t think I would be offering anyone new information if I said to you, “we are in transition.” Now you might ask me where specifically we are in transition but I am afraid I would just respond to you with a shrug and say, “everywhere.” Because it’s true. We are in transition in our educational systems, we are in transition in our governmental systems, we are in transition in our communication systems, we are in transition in our churches, we are in transition in our homes. We are in transition. We are currently standing in the gap of where we were and where we are going. We can see the black abyss underneath our feet and it’s as frightening as all hell.

Not only are we standing in the gap but the bridge we are walking on is like the path in the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Remember the scene where they are looking for the Holy Grail and the path only becomes visible a little at a time? Yep, we are looking for the Holy Grail all right and the path most certainly seems invisible.

This transition in nearly every aspect of our culture and society, is happening for many reasons that I am not even sure matter anymore. We have analyzed that data to death it seems and it did not reveal a clear path, so I am inclined to quit worrying about the “why” and focus on the “what now”?

What do we do in this gap? Do we even know where we are going? What is our “Holy Grail”? Is it stellar education, equality, peace, food and clean water for each person on the planet? It seems right now in mainline Protestant churches, the Holy Grail (so to speak) is to figure out how to actually “be” the church. We no longer are in the era of the church existing simply because it should or does, so, therefore how do we justify our existence? And now we find our selves firmly in the gap from being part of the institutional establishment to not. And the real issue is that we need to shed our institutionalist skin and live differently. And we no longer know how.

We no longer know how to listen to the people around us and let their story resonate or intersect with our own or most importantly, hear God’s story in our lives. We no longer know how to create authentic community without a national publishing house’s curriculum. We no longer trust ourselves or the people that we live with in our homes, schools and work places to possess a truth or an insight. We no longer know how to think outside of what a supposed renowned person with a PHD thinks. We no longer trust that God is loose in the world and we no longer look for God outside of what we consider “church” or “holy.” We no longer are ok with any ambiguity or mystery in life. We are looking for the Holy Grail and we want it to be delivered by Fedex between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to our office on Monday, thank you very much!

All of this unknown de-centers us, throws us off balance and frankly can make us cranky. Nothing is clear, there is not a magic bullet and it’s exhausting. But here is some good news-no really-I don’t know if we really ever had centeredness, balance or the “magic bullet” answer. I think all that we don’t know is now a bright strobe light that no one can ignore and it forces our acknowledgement of our lack of knowledge. This is great news in that it allows and pushes us to ask the tough questions, to wrestle with this transition that God has called us into, to get comfortable with discomfort, and to be open to mystery that our western scientific minds refuse to even consider.

Right about now you are hoping that I have some pithy internet, Facebookesque, clean statement that wraps this all together in a neat bow for you. Well, get used to mystery starting now (and disappointment), because I don’t. I do think it is a huge step to name the gap, to name the fear and figure out who is on the invisible path with you willing to teeter on the edge a bit. God is calling us all to participate in mess, uncertainty, humility, risk, creativity, faith, learning, and growth that is the heart of God’s mission of revealing God’s unconditional and unending love for the entire world. All in all, a pretty good gap to stand in don’t you think?