Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mystery Beneath the Ordinary

This is another quote from a book that I am finding quite helpful. The Spirit is using it to pull together some thoughts in my head which is helping me to understand what I'm supposed to be doing as a pastor.

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One of the greatest challenges the minor poet [Barnes’ label for a pastor] encounters is bidding parishioners to join in the search for mystery beneath the surface of the ordinary. They are often resistant to dropping their fig leaves in order to live in the open vulnerability of life before their Creator – not only because they feel guilty about making the garden material, but also because they are simply unaccustomed to living with sacred mystery. Our culture has functioned too long with reasonable explanations and without holy stories or wondrous mythologies. We now assume that we made it through another day because our bodies were still working, there was food in the refrigerator, and we had enough money to pay most of our bills. But all of these explanations appeal only to other ordinary phenomena and make no reference to the ideals or the beauty that lie behind them. As G. K. Chesterton has reminded us, the sun rises every morning not only because of the natural laws of science, but because like a small child, God squeals with delight over routine and tells the sun to “do it again.” That is what the soul needs to hear in order to find any delight for itself in the routines of another new day.

Ironically, it’s a vision of the mystery beneath the rational that keeps us reasonable. This is why Chesterton also claimed, “Poets do not go mad; but chess players do. . . . Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion.” Chesterton’s point is that everything can be understood by what is not understood. It is also the point of mysticism, spirituality, theology, the Bible, and even Archimedes. We are able to make sense of what we see only by finding our way to something that is just beyond the world that is known. Poets believe this, but most people were trained to see the world as a chess game in which the goal is to make all the right strategic moves with the hopes of winning, whatever that may mean.

Craig Barnes
Pastor as Minor Poet

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