Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!



Some of you know that last week I started EFM. The big topic in the online class discussion was that we had to come up with a metaphor for the lesson in the three years of the course represented. Year one looked at how worship and ritual kept the ancient Hebrews in touch with their identity despite multiple moves and cultures. Year two was looking at how the stories are framed in the Gospel of Mark. Year three had a timeline of people, events, and rulers.

One very astute person in the group (NOT me) came up with the metaphor of the Slinky, and we all glommed onto it.

As the discussion played out, I thought specifically about the Slinky in liturgical worship, as well as how our spiritual lives play out.

If you think about it, the Slinky is both solid and fluid. It's made of coiled metal. (Well, at least the good ones are. We're not going to address the crappy plastic ones.) Yet stored energy resides in those coils, which stretch and compress.

Those of us who prefer liturgical worship like a solid "form." We know week after week, when we take that Slinky out of the box on Sundays, what it's going to look like. Yet, once the liturgy starts, it is "fluid."

If you think about the liturgy, there are parts where energy is compressed and extended. The processional and the earlier readings cause a compression to get to the Gospel reading, which literally, in the Episcopal Church, is an "extension" because we process the Gospel book down the aisle and physically bring the story of Jesus to the people.

We compress the energy during the Nicene Creed, the Prayers of the People, and the Confession of Sin to prepare for another extension, the Passing of the Peace.

We do some more "compressing" as the offering is collected, the gifts and the elements of the Eucharist are brought to the table, and the table is "set." This results in another extension when the bread is broken and Body and Blood are offered to the people.

Finally, we have one more compression and extension of that Slinky--we compress in the Post-Communion Prayer, and then in the recessional, we extend that Slinky, through ourselves, as sacramental people, to the world.

Then, in looking at the same Slinky as a metaphor for our relationship with God, there is ebb and flow of energy. Sometimes, it seems very compressed, at other times extended...maybe even OVERextended. We choose directions for our life based on the gravity of it, just like putting that Slinky at the top of the stairs. We don't choose the speed of descent, nor its angle. We might feel we are going down the stairs too fast or too slowly. The angle that the slinky starts its course may result in it making it down the bottom of the stairs, or falling off the side of the staircase, or maybe just simply running out of gas and it sits inert on a stair. It won't go anywhere until something gives it a shove.

In that "moving down the staircase", there must be compression and extension--maybe even so much extension that we feel we are free-falling down the stairs. In the inertness, we beg for a push--even the "wrong" kind of push. We might see ourselves careening towards the edge of the staircase and know we will surely fall, and then it will be a matter of how snarled our Slinky will be, or will it ever be restored "good as new?" Or perhaps people or circumstances come into our lives and seem to maliciously stretch our Slinkys until they are "un-sprung," bent, or even broken.

Yet, we cannot forget the times the Slinky goes down the staircase perfectly, and we rest at the bottom only briefly before we yell, "WOO HOO! What a ride! Let's do it again!"

We compress in our quiet time with God, or in prayer, or in reading Scripture...and like the liturgical parallel of the church recessional, we extend the Gospel into the world.

So where IS God in the dynamics of the Slinky? Where's Jesus?

For me, God is in both the stored, coiled energy, and the form that is bounded by the circumference of the slinky. Fluid in His ability to synergistically combine with our own personal energies to create smooth motion, yet solid in form and within the boundaries of His own dimension--God's reign, as it were. Never mind that His dimension seems boundless to us in ours.

Jesus is there in those moments that we seem hopelessly snarled. I think about all those times as a child I had to "unsnarl my Slinky." I was always taking my Slinky to fearful Slinky places, living on the edge of what my Slinky could do, and always ending up spending more of my play time than I ought to in the act of unsnarling it. It was a never ending story of frustration. I'd play with my slinky for ten minutes and end up spending fifteen minutes unsnarling it.

Yet Jesus can unsnarl any Slinky.

The problem, of course, is that this never seems to happen on "our" time, but His. Again, this is a frustrating process. We always want to be unsnarled NOW, but to properly unsnarl a Slinky takes time, and may well leave a bent coil here and there. Jesus doesn't always show up to unsnarl us when we think he ought to be showing up.

But perhaps the biggest shame of all is when we never take it out of the box. All that energy, ready to go, and not going anywhere. Maybe others in our lives are fearful of the potential of that energy, and in their fear, keep us in our box. Much of the control in abuse and codependency is to keep things in their boxes, and never allow them to roam free. Maybe we fear it ourselves, because to come out of the box on our own, means risk. Risk of over-compression and risk of over-extension. Risk of falling too fast or going too slow and being stuck on the staircase. Risk of being dependent on others to give us a push, or slow us down. Risk of trusting others to set us correctly on the staircase. But to never come out of the box at all denies others of the power of the Gospel as it plays out in our lives.

3 comments:

I missed that you were starting EFM. Blessings on your process.

I loved slinkies when I was a kid. I'm going to have to ponder the coiled energy / fluidity analogy.

Much more to it...the slinky is circles...the circles of life that move and repeat themselves, change and want to gather together and can´t be seperated (without being less) even though sometimes uniformity is impossible...it´s all in the inter connectedness...there is no place to hide.

Ooooo. I like it.

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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