If you’re bumming that 2018 has been filled with nothing but bad news or, at the very best, good news of an insignificant nature, may I suggest you check out Ranker’s Top Scientific Achievements of 2018? (And that’s just so far!) There are I am sure similar websites with similar information. In any case, the list is tremendous! Here are but a few of the discoveries listed:
And, not last and nor even least (but, perhaps, most wacky)
The truth is, in spite of everything, there are very good, important, transformational things happening in and for our world! And where are all these very good, important things happening?
In the laboratory.
In a place known for, and committed to, ongoing experimentation as results are sought by bringing together elements, conditions, and time in different configurations and then using those results to ask further questions, seek further results, try different/additional elements and so it goes, on and on and on....
And the purpose is…to see what happens! Maybe the desired results occur, maybe they don’t. It really doesn’t matter. Both successful and failed experiments are important in the lab, because both contribute equally to finding the answers to questions and solutions to problems. The worst thing a scientist can do is give up experimenting.
May I suggest when looking for a metaphor for understanding, explaining and pursuing “Church”, especially for such a time as this, we consider “The Love Lab”??
I propose this for a couple of reasons.
1) Christianity is all about love, right? We know we’re to worship and devote our lives to God, and, as the Bible says, God is love. The scientific equation would be A + B = A + C
1.1) Jesus couldn’t make it clearer that his followers are to always be about love. If, in yesterday’s lectionary gospel reading (John 15:9-17) you replaced “Love” with “Miracle Mop” you’d turn off the infomercial half-way through. We get it, Lord, so can you stop yammering on about love already???
2) While it’s clearer than crystal that our ultimate purpose is “love,” the ironic reality is that this is the most mysterious of phenomena. Of course, God is as equally mysterious, so maybe this truth should not come as great surprise. Maybe our equation is more accurately A + ? = A + ?.
How’s that for a comforting raison d’être?!
2.1) And maybe that’s why the Bible is so thick. It’s very hard, maybe even impossible, to define once and for all what “love” really is all about; for better or for worse we keep pursuing all sorts of options.
How do you define “love”? Is it a feeling? Is it a disposition? Is it an action? Is love something we can naturally produce and provide on our own, or is it dependent upon first receiving it from someone else? Where is love born? From the heart? From the head? From the soul? From the body?
There are all sorts of questions - and answers - we (and others) can honestly have about the reality of love.
And then there are the different kinds of love. While we English-speakers have but one word for “love,” the Greeks (who wrote the New Testament) gave it four different words (at least), signifying it comes to us in four (at least) different, and sometimes mutually exclusive, ways. AC + B1 ≠ AC + B2, etc.
There is agápe - the unconditional/sacrificial love God has for all of creation and we, who have God’s Spirit living inside of us, are equipped to extend to God and all things.
There is philia - the love we curate between friends that seeks relationship of complete equality and mutuality.
There is éros - the passion for connection that often emerges beyond our power to consciously control.
There is storgé - the innate affection and empathy found within families; it also describes the kind of love we have for country or favorite sports team.
And even as the Bible is mostly interested in the development of agápe and, to some extent, philia, clearly there is need to address and develop the other two in a healthy, life-giving and, hence, dynamic, way even as our scripture and tradition give very little instruction in this regard.
And the three main tasks of discipleship: doing justice, loving kindness, walking humbly with God….how does/does “love” (and from ever-evolving incarnation to ever-evolving incarnation) inform, even transform our approaches to each?
I’m no math expert, and even if I was, I can’t begin to guess what kind of equations I might be able to present here (or what I need to press on my mac keyboard to produce the proper symbols….)
If the church were to see it’s task as one of ongoing development in the understanding and production of love, how helpful would that be?? It is no longer nearly as important that it provides answers as it stimulates the investigation of questions. And around a particular focus: a singular substance as easy (and important) to pin down as mercury outside the thermometer.
It seems to me that all of our pursuits together would be much more hopeful, since success or failure doesn’t exist, we can all see ourselves as part of a messy but ever-developing project where all experiences and ideas are key. Life together is never not creative, never not significant. No matter where or how that Life Together finds itself.
It’s all experiment, baby! Even as denominations try to figure out how to faithfully configure themselves, as we try and figure out how to relate to those in the fold whose political beliefs and behaviors strike us as anathema, as we wonder what God would have us with our anger about just about everything, about our fears….especially, perhaps, about the fact that “the Church” as we know it continues to be “in decline”….
I don’t know about you, but thinking about the church as a love lab makes me smile, makes me even happily laugh with gratitude that the color for the pastor’s robe continues to trend towards white! :)