Moving On (into the mystery of not knowing)

Not to Know

Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Mark 1:14-20
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

Got to go—someplace.  Anyplace!  Anywhere!
Anywhere but where we are supposed to go!
God calls, we respond.
God leads and we follow.
Well, sometimes,
and usually, only when it is convenient for us.
Sometimes we are too afraid.
Sometimes we are too weak.
Sometimes we just have more important
things to do than answer God’s call…
Sometimes.  But then,
sometimes we get it right in spite of ourselves,
and our very real inhibitions—sometimes.
I am always impressed at the amount of ministers
who, lacking any true vision of God,
nonetheless serve God,
regardless of their lack of faith—
And this is, I suppose,
the ultimate act of faith, and courage:
To serve God in spite of one’s own disbelief!
To move on in God’s work
not knowing—just not knowing—
but moving on regardless!

The truth of it is, is that it takes no courage or faith to follow something that we actually know to be factual and absolute.  If this is our stance before God then there is not need for faith, and if as St. Paul says, that it is through our faith that we are saved, then if our theology/spirituality/religion/belief is fact-based, salvation may well be impossible for us.  Factual categorization does not salvation  bring.

On the other hand, if it is only possible to act in the subjunctive, to place out faith in what we only hope could be true, only wish were so, then it seems we actually have faith.  It is the individual who serves a God that might not be there, who acts in faith in spite of the evidence that their actions may be in vein, who struggles day to day (sometimes minute by minute) with doubts and skepticism, but  acts in faith anyway that is, in actuality, living out their faith.

Like I said, or alluded to, last week, this whole God/church/spirit/life/death thing is born and is shrouded in mystery, and if we think we know anything at all we are deluding ourselves.  MYSTERY DOES NOT FUNCTION ON THE ACT OF KNOWING; MYSTERY FUNCTIONS ON THE ACT ON NOT-KNOWING!

This is not to say that I do not believe in God, or that I have no faith in Jesus.  It is to say that I have very little to say about God’s attributes, except those born out of my encounters with this Divine Entity, which have been good, loving, generous, forgiving, freeing, liberating, and life-changing.  These encounters have brought me to the realization that whatever it is that God is, God is trustworthy, and I need not worry, be afraid, experience fear, around God, because God cares deeply for me.  That is my only claim.  I cannot make any more claim to knowledge of God and God’s ways than that.  I know nothing scientific, because God can neither be proved of disproved;  I only have anecdotal, personal data, but it is enough for me.

To Be Known

Someone Out There Speaking My Name?

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

Does God know me well enough to speak my name?
Do we know each other well enough
to speak each other’s names?
Is there anything out there
to know me at all?
I think so?  I wonder, maybe?
I choose to believe so…
I choose to make claims on God–there or not.
Does it matter?
I do like the sound of my name, though.
I like it best
when I hear it spoken by someone I love.
I will say that I do love God,
but I am not sure if I have ever heard
God speak my name.
And I wonder,
does God have holy lips
with which to speak out our names?
Does God actually have a voice,
or is it that we claim a voice
for God when doing so
matches our own convenience?
I have spoken to God.
I have both pleaded and praised loudly
into the blackness
of the vast universe,
and I think I have been heard.
I think change occurred,
and that God heard and responded.
But have I ever heard God speak MY name?
I have heard a call from a friend in need.
I have answered when strangers have called out.
I have listened to those broken
with life’s tragedy
as they shared the darkness of their souls.
So, yes, I have heard God speak my name!

Baptism: Choice, Covenant, Challenge

The Waters of Baptism

Mark 1:4-11 & Acts 19:1-7
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

These two texts are about baptism.
Baptism of Repentance by John.
Baptism of Covenant by Jesus.
And introduced by Paul,
Baptism of Challenge and Courage by the Holy Spirit.
Arcane thoughts, concepts, categories, and presuppositions.
And yet at times we do make choices that lead us to
repent, apologize, confess,
express regret—to another.
In our culture we have chosen
contracts over promise, law over trust,
and consciously, sometimes unconsciously,
because of a strong sense of our lack of allegiance—
to anything—
many of us seek ways of connection to
dysfunctional systems of belonging.
In our hearts we are deeply afraid
of the great Challenge that Mystery presents.
When was the last time you have stepped
out into the unknown—
financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually?
Can you name a time when you have
taken on a challenge that was greater, bigger, than you,
and, win or lose, given it your best?
The Baptism of which Paul writes
is one of Challenge,
but that comes with its own bolstering Courage
to engage the Mystery full on.
If, in our own time, we can look at baptism in this way:
making choices that are life changing,
being grounded in right choices,
and seeking healthy relationships,
we can then begin learning the larger challenge of
stepping into the Great Mystery that is Life itself.

It does seem that in most of our Christian Denominations Baptism is both Sacrament and Choice.  While some understand it as a public statement of commitment, others see it as a means of salvation itself.  People have been killed over this issue!

I have long been of the persuasion that all the various understanding, contentions, posits, claims made for any theological doctrine hold some part of the truth, not the whole truth as the promoters of each nuance would have you believe, just some part of it.  Therefore I believe that each claim has some small validity.  There fore I believe that any given doctrine is so multilayered that the doctrine itself can only be understood in terms of its many definitions, and therefore actually non-definable and non-understandable.

With this said, I will add that as a theologian, I see it as my job not to support any one definition af a doctrine but to add definitions to it.  You see, I believe that there truly is Mystery, and that Mystery can never actually be known, but can be approached through many, many, layers of various statements.

An example of this is that I actually believe that the True Believer’s claim that “God is everything,” and the Atheist’s claim that “God is nothing,” are both correct.  Think about it.  If indeed God is everything, then God has to be nothing as well as everything between.  No way around it.  Give me a statement about God and I’ll agree with it as a part of the Truth.  Tell me that statement is THE TRUTH, and I will tell you you are wrong.

BTW, Thanks to all of you who read these theological meanderings, and especially to you who comment on this site.  Whether you agree with my writing or not your statements mean a lot to me.  H


Woodshop: A Place to Occupy Praise

Psalm 148
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

There is a thought in our culture
that we all deserve something
more than we have.
We deserve it.
We want not just our own share,
but more than our share.
We have learned to complain
while in the possession of plenty.
Plenteousness has become just not enough.
We are spoiled.
We feel left out.
We act as if we have been cheated.
We walk around with a sense of hopelessness.
We become lost in self-pity.
All because we have falsely come to believe that
more than our share,
is our share.
Contraposed, there is a thought pervading Scripture
that we want the wrong things
and already have the right things in plenty.
There is also a thought in Scripture
that praise is the only correct posture
we can take in our lives,
with our friends and family,
and for the bounty we have been given,
but most of the time we are too caught up in
what we think we deserve.
For a little variety, why don’t we try praise,
and observe what might change for us?

Over 35 years ago I got interested in working with wood—carving, making small objects like toys, boxes, and other things that interested me.  I couldn’t do this because of finances and because some of the places I’ve lived weren’t conducive of it.  Right now, after all this time, I am actually able to do this.  I have a small shop with many used tools I’ve collected over the years–tools that have sat dormant waiting for me to fix them, and have a place to use them.  I’ve got this old band saw that I’ve had for 35 years that comes out of the 30s, and some other old equipment that were the cast-offs of others, that I have refurbished and made usable.  I have an outlet for my wood projects where I can sell them so they don’t overrun my work space, and which gives me some satisfaction from completing my projects.  I am writing songs and getting a few of them placed, as well as playing gigs.  Am I a rock star?  No.  Do I want to be?  No.  Am I happy with my life and how it is working out?  Yes.  I have a huge amount of peace right now.  I am still at the poverty level, as far as my income goes, but screw it, my life is nonetheless rich.  I have great friends, of which you are one.  I have GOALS that I am OCCUPYING, and a small job, the Geyserville Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), that enables me to do all this.  I like working and being productive.  And while there are some things I would still like to say I’ve done before I die, oh well.  I’m not going to complain about what I haven’t done or can’t do when there is so much that I have done.

I recognize the need for the Occupy Movement, but at a personal, psychological, spiritual level, I do not think that a constant attitude of protest is healthy.  I wonder, it is possible to protest the evil of the world while giving praise for the lives we are given?  I hope so!  If we cannot find things for which to give praise, I think we are sunk as persons.  My goal for 2012 is to OCCUPY PRAISE!