March 25, 2009

Convoluted Math

Christians have a funny way of dealing with time.

You’d think life could be a simple affair: Take each day as it comes, think only about today, make meaning from the time you are in. Easy enough, yes?

But not us. No, we’re terribly complicated people, we ecclesiastical eccentrics. We are hard folk to understand. Our meaning-making is a constant act of convolution—backwards and forwards; looking back, looking ahead. One goes to church to hear a good word for today, but the preacher spends most of her 20 minutes dabbling in 1900 year old stories, or he talks on and on about some time still to come, when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” It must drive our neighbors mad, what with our heads always either stuck in an ancient book or off in some picturesque future.

But this is how it works in the fellowship of those who walk in the Jesus way. We make meaning for the moment by first making sense of God’s past, which then begs our imagination of the future, a future that inevitably presses upon the present with its gravitational pull. (See what I mean? Bonkers.)

Scripture teaches us to take our best shot at what God might be up to with our today by playing back the narrative of what God has been up to in our past, which is the ground for imagining what God will be up to in the future ... in the light of which we live today. (Check out something like Joshua 4 for how this works. “Remember: God made a way across this river. Imagine: There will come a time when your kids will inquire. Therefore: Pick up some sacramental rocks and walk on.)

It’s canonical algebra: God did x. God has promised to do z. So get busy today doing y. Turns out x = z = y.

This is why your grandmothers and/or your Sunday School teachers wanted you to learn your 12 tribes, your 10 commandments, and your 12 apostles (and in each case, the narrative that cradles them). The stuff of the canonical narrative is the raw material for rightly imagining a God-shaped future, the frame of which brackets the day now before us.

He died/was raised. He will appear again. Live in-between, live now. X = Z = Y.

Ludicrous from the outside looking in. Life-giving from the inside living out.