Friday, June 17, 2011

(Day 5) On Wondering, Wandering and Worldviews

Precarious Life in Abundance
The most significant gift of this sabbath time thus far is the gift of time to wonder.  Each morning I am presented with a blank slate: no fixed agenda, no list of needs, no worries about what challenges will await me at the prison and I have time to wonder... and I did a lot of wondering yesterday:

  • I wondered at the curious mix of ingredients and chemical reactions as I ate that guilt ridden piece of banana bread, 
  • I wondered how I could be so stupid as I waited for gas to be delivered after running out on the way to Amherst, 
  • I wondered at the complexity of the automobile and my past ambition to be an auto mechanic as I waited for the car to be repaired, 
  • I wondered about what I would see and who I would meet as I looked at maps and route suggestions on the GPS,
  • and, I wondered about the mysterious change that occurs within as I sat on the back step and watched the sun peek through the clouds for the first time in five days!

Much of my wondering was focused on my soon to be wandering across the vast continent that is North America.  Do you know how many roads there are that run east and west across the United States!  Wow! How to choose?!?!

And when I wasn't thinking about what road to choose I was pondering the theme for this Sunday which will be my last preaching engagement for three months: Trinity Sunday.  The Gospel passage for Sunday is from Matthew 28, commonly known as the "great commission".
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
I have long struggled with this passage: struggled because I have not understood the Christian faith to be about proselytization - about converting other persons to the faith that helps me find direction in life.  John Maynard, a colleague I interact with as part of an on-line forum offered the following translation thats seems to fit better with my wondering:
Go forth and draw all people everywhere into the faith and family of God, baptizing them, teaching them, and giving them the assurance that I AM with them to the end of all time.
Draw all people everywhere into the faith and family of God... that fits with what I understand to be the ministry of Correctional Chaplaincy, and at the risk of getting too technical, let us remember that Jesus never performed a baptism, at best the baptism that he spoke of would have been the baptism as performed by the likes of John the Baptist: a ritual cleansing, a purging with the water of life, a shower of blessing to remind the person of the goodness of God...

Faithful living is not about believing the "right" things and being "initiated" into the community, it is instead about living in and into the mysterious assurance that I AM, the Spirit of all that is Holy, which is as present as in the wind that moves among us all.

Which brings me to the other facet of my wondering: the doctrine of the Trinity.  For this Sunday I chose to reuse a number of prayers and liturgical elements from 2005 where I did service with a Celtic theme.  The Celts were big on the concept of Trinity, the connection to nature and relationships between the two.

That the Trinity became a doctrine of the Church is I think a failure.  A failure inasmuch as it limits human imagination and seeks to define that which is by its very nature undefinable.  "I AM."  "I AM WHO I AM."

I believe that the concept of the Trinity can be helpful for some as a means to explain their experience of God, but I am convinced that God is not a "triune God" a "three-in-One".  As says Andrew Prior, another colleague from Australia in his sermon for this Sunday, summarizing Thomas Aquinas:
The Father is God.  The Son is God.  The Holy Spirit is God.  The Son is not the Father.  The Father is not the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is not the Son.  There is only one God.  (Impenetrable, yes, but what can one expect?  The subject is God, after all.
The subject is God, after all.  The God WHO IS.  The God who says, I AM WHO I AM.  The God who fills my sail and moves me to engage the world with the best I have to offer.  The God who blows over my ever receding hair line and sends chills down my spine when I stand in awe of creation.  The God who dwells within humanity and calls us into deeper relationship with each other.

And if all this wasn't enough to wonder about, later in the day while reading Sojourners Online and a review of Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor, a book that I had recently read (I wanted to see if my views of the book held any water) I came across an e-book that I just could not put down: The Knight and the Gardner by Cassidy S. Dale.  The opening paragraph hooked me:
Have you ever considered how you see the world? Why people disagree over what is moral, heroic, loving, or holy? Why you team well with some people and con´Čéict with others? Why two people sitting next to each other in the same church can read very different things in the same Bible? Why people disagree about politics and war?
 On page 119 he writes,
When a Gardener’s faith is shaken, he or she wonders AM I doing the best thing? Have I grown an unneeded or wrong crop? Have I built the wrong thing? Have I wasted my time? Have I grown a monster?

I realized quickly in my reading that my worldview is that of a Gardner.  But when I read those words above, in the midst of my wondering I noticed a connection between the "I AM" of God and the personal question "AM I".  And it dawned on me as light blinking through yet another facet of a complex diamond: it is all about relationship.  God is fundamentally, inescapably, invested in relationship with creation... and calls us to the same.

Dale ends his book with two equally challenging and hopeful statements: "There are more Gardners in the world then knights."  And, "There are many wars; there is one Garden."

Take a little time today to do a little wandering and wondering yourself and ponder whether you are a Knight or a Gardner...

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