Kirkepiscatoid

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


My EfM mentor, Ann Fontaine, posed a wonderful question to everyone in her class on a lazy Saturday morning--she referred us to this article in the Daily Episcopalian and challenged us to answer Verna Dozier's question for ourselves--"Tell the story of the faith in 10 minutes or less."

Well, don't laugh, but the first thing I thought of was Charles Atlas.

Growing up as an only child, I spent a fair amount of my youth reading comic books on the porch, or under a shady tree, or in my room--superheroes like Superman, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, and ones that intrigued my sense of the mysterious like Ripley's Believe it or Not, House of Mystery, and House of Secrets. Most of them invariably had the requisite Charles Atlas ad.

Now, I loved playing sports as a kid, and even though these ads were geared for young males, I could see where Charles Atlas' concept of "Dynamic Tension" could help me throw further, hit a softball harder, and make more free throws, when one had no money to buy gym equipment. Of course, I could not afford to sign up for the program, and I wasn't going to want to explain to my adult relatives "Why I wanted a muscle building program," but I would study his pictures in the ads and sort of halfway figured out his "Dynamic Tension" was simply a form of isometric exercise like we did in gym class. So I sort of halfway figured out what I thought his methods were, without actually buying his "secrets."

As I thought about this, a single sentence popped into my head, that I had created and posted on my Facebook wall a few days prior: "Faith is the dynamic tension between grace and knowledge."

So without further ado, here's my version of Verna Dozier's challenge of "Tell the story of the faith in ten minutes or less."

The story of the Christian faith is simply a three act story of dynamic tension--the dynamic tension between grace and knowledge. Grace and knowledge are unique in that they are not truly opposing forces, they are more like two clasped hands intertwined in an isometric exercise where the stormy pressure from each force creates a perfect central point of "no force"--faith--and in the eye of that storm is all that is possible both within, and beyond human understanding. To constantly strive to be suspended in the center, held aloft by both forces simultaneously. However, that point cannot exist without both forces equally involved in the exercise.

The curtain opens in the first act on the story of the ancient Hebrew people as related in the Hebrew Bible, what we traditionally call the Old Testament. It is a story of the evolution of one culture's dynamic tension between the biological force of maintaining their civilization despite their own human nature, versus their evolving understanding of a God who desires them to find Zion. Is Zion a physical place, mappable on the GPS? Is it a state of being? Is it some of both? In the Hebrew Bible, we discover that this process is not a single isometric exercise, but an exercise to be repeated in cycles. Each "repetition" of the exercise has elements of creation, sin, repentance, redemption, and restoration, just as isometric exercises are held in states of tension and rest. Over time, things like exile, destruction and loss create pain within these ancient people, but with each cycle of the exercise they begin to grow stronger.

The second act of the story revolves around the story of Jesus, himself held aloft in a dynamic tension between a world that is ready for a Messiah, and a world nowhere near being ready for a Messiah. This story is outlined in the Gospels of the New Testament. We say Jesus is "divine," but what does that mean, really? Does it mean he simply had an understanding of these two forces far beyond the people of the day in relation to our own understanding of our "divine spark?" Or does it mean that what we come to know as God actually tried a different way to reach humankind--to change the pattern of the exercise?

We don't really know, and frankly, the details don't matter. What matters is that we see that grand spot in the universe of "no force," sandwiched between the forces of a world where miracles happen, and a world where there is nothing but death and destruction, in that moment that Jesus is suspended on the cross sandwiched between two thieves. Not only is Jesus physically suspended there, another kind of suspension is evident. It is the suspension of all things worldly, and all things that are beyond the world of our comprehension. Within this suspension is the power of resurrection, where death cannot be tamed, and a form of love exists that seems almost so exquisitely powerful, the joy of it physically hurts. As a result of this, what we know as "the early Christian church" springs forth in an anti-entropic way--life from death, structure from forces designed to create randomness. The death of Jesus on the cross should have caused his followers to scatter to the winds, but instead they are empowered by this resurrection. The remainder of the New Testament follows that dynamic tension as this new culture attempts to grow from "disaffected Jews" to the inclusion of Gentiles.

Finally, we arrive at the third act, the act that is yet to be written, and the one that is written with an infinite number of endings. It is the act where the dynamic tension occurs between these first two ancient stories and each and every modern individual that claims Christianity for him or herself. It is each of our own journeys to understand things that are beyond our biology--yet we must seek to understand them with approximately 400 grams of muscle which make up the human heart, and approximately 1400 grams of lipidized, moisturized neural tissue that we call the human brain. We are challenged to participate in an isometric exercise of torrential force with flimsy, finite parts that will cease to function beyond the moment of our own physical deaths. We are asked to believe in an eternal relationship with no boundaries, between us, and an all powerful force of the universe, in the setting of a universe we can perceive with only five senses, and not even as much "instinct" as creatures far lower than us on the evolutionary ladder. We are asked to balance "science" with "non-science." We are asked to understand something that defies the laws of physics while living within the laws of physics. It is a truly impossible task--yet something in the Christian which the Christian can't even understand compels him or her to do it. We are compelled by the sense of love we feel both for God, and God's love for us, which to the skeptic would seem only like a grandiose addiction.

But within the center of all that mess...we find faith. We catch fleeting glimpses of being suspended aloft by the hand of God--and in those moments, we become the parting of the Red Sea, we become suspended on the cross with Christ, and we become part of the empty tomb. It is the greatest miracle of all.

1 comments:

Interesting thought about the time being ready for a messiah and nowhere near ready for a messiah... conjures up a whole train of thought about what was expected of a messiah and what they actually got. we look for a messiah but when we get one, we keep trying to tear down the pedestal and expose all the "stuff". we've got a Messiah, but we really don't know or aren't sure quite what to do with him.

thanks for your post.

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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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