We spent some time at school this weekend talking about the digital world and how that relates to our spirituality. We learned about a game where you create an avatar and you join an online community that says they are Anglican. You can fly into the cathedral and experience services, how there is a person in Guildford, UK who manages the liturgy for this alternate world. We talked about “glocal” communities, how we have people in our worlds that we probably have never met, but who make up our network, all thanks to social media and the internet.
I like Facebook, I really do. I am mostly in love with gmail. I like to live tweet debates on Twitter and I need to write to be able to process and so here I am. But I wish the internet would go away. I wish that people would write letters, I wish they would talk on the phone, I wish they would show up in a way that is deeper and more meaningful than 30 seconds of QWERTY typing. I long for rows of metal filing cabinets. I think I would be ok if the internet burned down tomorrow, I really do.
We talked about how all of these people are online and drawing from all of these different resources, building this quasi faith out of the sparkly bits and pieces of other traditions. And sure, we all appropriate the cultures of other people sometimes, some of us like Gaelic prayers though we don’t speak the actual language, we say ya’ll though we haven’t spent five minutes down south. But I think, truly, that to build an avatar, to make up who you are, and to build your faith identity based on all the sparkliest bits of many faiths is not authentic. I think its not hard. I think it is no journey.
Its hard to show up, hard to be there, hard to answer the phone sometimes. I get that. A made up avatar is, many days, much preferred over the mess of who I really am, someone perfectly coiffed and in control of herself and her emotions – that sounds pretty good. Alas, it is not real.
We were all sort of sick of school today. I felt that everyone was the teensiest bit testy, that I had nothing helpful to contribute, only words of anger and disdain. So I stayed out of a debate on whether or not the man who shot and killed 50 people at a club in Orlando was mentally ill, was his hate fueled by a mental illness, or was it pure hate?
I was wearing this bright yellow dress with a bold black and white hibiscus print. I was in a room in a complex that is seriously something out of the Walking Dead and the room was painted green. And friends, if I could have held my hands over my 36 year old ears and slid down off my seat and under the table I would have. If I could have located a way to avoid that news, a way to not know, I would have taken that path.
Its been a bad week for news, n’est ce pas? A rapist who is white and white collar sentenced to nothing for raping a unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Christina Grimmie, a young talent shot and killed at a meet and greet with her fans. And more that I am completely sure I haven’t heard.
We talked about some of Paul’s letters this weekend, how there are only so many that we are sure are his, and the others possibly so, but possibly not. We talked about how in some letters the return of the risen Christ to resurrect a world that is suffocating under Roman rule is imminent, and how later letters push that date out, make it indefinable. And we talked about how maybe Jesus already came back. Maybe this is the world he left, with his own commandments and teachings for how we are to live here… forever.
Though those commands are so roundly disregarded pretty much all of the time.
We could magic that heavenly campground into being in a moment if we all turned, if we all opened the wardrobe door and saw the lion that waited on the other side next to the lantern lighting up the dark wood. If we told our friends and our neighbors. If we all would put down our clutching grip on our portfolios and checkbooks and just LOVED THE HELL OUT OF EACH OTHER. That would be heaven.
That would be the world that Jesus wanted to bring about, the place that he left for us, the place he already came back to (because he did, you remember that resurrection, that bright garden in the early morning light, those women, and the disciple whom Jesus loved <because why is any man with those women going to check on a grave???> and how they got there and the body was gone?) — what if this is what we have left?
Then we show up.
We don’t live in virtual communities and take hastily blessed communion packets in our pajamas. Do we eat dinner that way on a special day? Do we Skype in? No. We are present because our family demands it of us even when we wish to stay home. This family demands it of you too, your brokenness, your pajamas, your sin, your indignance and false piety. Your dissatisfaction for a youthful leader that YOU called, your errors and omissions, your secrets and your hearts – we want it all. Your hands on the chalice, your tongue on the bread — we need this of you, we need you to show up.
If we showed up I think that things like what happened in Orlando, at Columbine, in Newton, in San Bernadino, I think we could work on those together. Not in spaces where we don’t have to be accountable for what we say, not in spaces where we would type things we would never ever say to a person’s face. But really in community with each other.
I know it sucks. I know we suck. I know we’re, many times, going at this all wrong, all backwards, trying to tell the world what the world needs instead of listening for that cry to come over the barricade, telling us what the needs really are. We are quick to ACT, we do not discern, we do not contemplate.
I’ve been telling you these things. My voice is hoarse with shouting at you your command to LOVE your neighbor, the stinky one and the one who lives in his car, the one who beats his wife and the one who can’t hold a job, the gay one and the conservative one — we have to love them all, even the man who walked into that nightclub and killed 50 people. Because we, YOU, were commanded to, go read your bible.
You can say that you like it, that you agree with what I say but until we rise together this world will not change and more people will die in night clubs and government offices and elementary schools – because we were too involved with how spiritual we were trying be, with our personal relationship with Jesus Christ than we were with the corporate ARMY that is our love and our light against all the darkness this world can offer.
We can call an army, we can play the bag pipes, issue the draft orders, play the drum cadences, but if you don’t show up we don’t have an army to fight with, there is no one to work at driving back the night.
Think of the power that we bring to the altar on any given Sunday, the resources, the knowledge, the drive to change the tide that is engulfing our world in the insanity of hate and intolerance and violence.
Get out of your pew.
Live the love.
Because maybe this is all there is. Maybe no one is coming for us. Maybe this work is harder than we thought.
If I’m a pagan of the good times, my lover’s the sunlight. To keep this god on my side, he demands a sacrifice, to the drain the whole sea, find something shiny…. Something meaty for the main course, that’s a fine looking high horse, what you got in the stables? That’s a lot of starving faithful. That looks plenty, that looks tasty, this is hungry work….take me to church. I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies, I’ll tell you my sins so you can sharpen your knife, offer me that deathless death, Oh God, let me give you my life.
“I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mill so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”
The lion can’t receive you in your little boat, eddying in the tide, if you’re not there. Get in the boat. Trust that the waters will be stilled. That we wreak joyous and loving havoc on a world in desperate need of light.
No one is coming.
Its down to us.