Rustlings (June 6, 2016)

As a minister, theologian and general lover of all things spiritual, I spend a great portion of my time either promoting mystery or dispelling mystery. Our post-enlightenment, overly scientific generation has a strange tendency to embrace mystery where there is none. We so crave something beyond our rational knowledge that we ‘make up mystery’ to keep our minds and hearts intrigued. Recently a young professional – wide-eyed with wonder – told me that his maternal grandmother and one of his paternal aunts both died on the same date. And add to that, his son shares a birthdate with one of his cousins! He concluded his utterings of amazement by excitedly asking, “Can you believe that?” I paused. I always hate it when I have to dispel a cherished demimystery. But I did my job. I informed my friend that statistically, if you gather twenty-five people in a room, quite likely two of them share a birthdate. This is truly no mystery. There are over seven billion people on the face of our planet and only 365 days in the year on which to be born, get married, die, and experience all other life events. There’s going to be a lot of crossover.

On the other hand, promoting mystery is no easier. We often struggle to embrace real mystery. The mystery of God’s presence, grace and love. We regularly read from a book that is thousands of years old. We pray to a God we cannot see and say God is with us. We gather in a space that has been sanctuary for thousands, lift bread and wine to our mouths, and watch young people submerged in holy waters. Some Sundays it moves us. Other Sundays we wonder what we’re doing here, what we’ll cook for lunch, and did I close the garage door. Promoting the mystery is no easier. It’s easy for us to believe there is some enigmatic significance to a shared birth date. But hard for us to believe God is with us, God loves us and God is infinitely merciful to us. It’s even harder to believe these things are true for others. It’s often easier to share a birthdate than it is to share grace.

This Sunday I’ll be sharing mysteries and dispelling mysteries. It’s part of what I do. I hope you’ll join me in the worship of our present, loving, graceful, mysterious God…

— Jim