During the Ash Wednesday service in Muskegon last week, Bishop Bard shared with the congregation some paradoxes of the Christian faith in his sermon entitled “A Liminal Lent.” It was a rich sermon and I appreciated it greatly, and as all good sermons do, it has caused me to continue to think about it since.
There have been times in my life when I have struggled with paradox. I understand that struggle is by definition a part of the nature of any paradox, but the bishop in his sermon invited us just to hold some of the Christian paradox’s we experience in tension and live with them, maybe even celebrate them. I don’t always do that well. Being the age I am I have lived most of my life within the context of “modern” thinking. That is, this is right and that is not right. Modern thinking is dualistic. It is one or the other, either or, right or wrong. And so I have struggled with paradox and situations that seem to invite a “both and” reality. But I’m grateful for the ways that is beginning to change.
Much is being written today from a variety of corners of the church about non-dualistic thinking, the idea that things need not be either this or that but may very well be both…or even more than just the sum of the two! Many are exploring how we might value the seeming tension of paradox or live into an understanding that few things really need to be as clearly delineated as we have made them out to be. Engaging this perspective, while sometimes difficult for those of my certain age, is, at least for me, remarkably freeing. For when we begin to let go of some of our dualism, our often-tight fisted definitions of what is or should be, it opens us up to a whole new world of possibilities. God begins to be removed from the small confining boxes into which we have placed God. There is a new breadth and depth to theology. Bible Study and life itself begins to abound with new prospective. We move from being guardians of truth to a joy filled journey of exploration led by God’s Spirit into places of learning and discovery. We become much more comfortable with paradox and ambiguity, and we live much more comfortably in the tension of that which we don’t know rather than in the old warm blanket that having everything all figured out once provided.
I’m not suggesting all this is what the bishop was saying last Wednesday! But like I said, good sermons always put you to thinking and praying, contemplating and celebrating and that’s what I’ve been doing.
I don’t know where you are as we enter this second week of the Lenten season, but I invite you to allow the Spirit of God to blow through your life in these days. I invite you to become more and more comfortable with the paradoxes and ambiguities of faith and trust that God who loves you and me and everyone – with an incredible love – will hold us safe even as we allow ourselves to navigate all the new currents the Spirit moves us upon.