Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The need for gravity. . .

While hearing of the space walk at the International Space Station, I was reminded that weightlessness is not a blessing but a bane.  It is harder to work in an atmosphere without gravity than it is with the gravity pulls against our every movement trying to be free.  Our bodies are made for gravity and require its constant pull for everything from muscle tone to bone density.

We stand staring into the sky and wish we could fly -- floating weightless in the sky (or at least enough weightlessness to keep us above but not too far from the landscape of the earth.  We dream of reaching the stars though the practical effects of such long term travel without gravity remain a danger as much as they are a desire.

We should be thankful for gravity for without it we would suffer in more ways than we can count.  But instead we find gravity an enemy against a vision of freedom which begs to be let go.  Surely there is a sermon in this or at least a devotion.  Especially in Lent we come face to face with the sober and often disappointing truth that we also need gravity for the soul, the pull of the divine with its unpleasant truth or we suffer as victims of an illusion that can offer us nothing real.

Lent is that.  It is the season of gravity, acknowledging the pull of the divine that keeps us where we need to be -- even if that pull includes the guilt and shame of sin.  Too much of our lives are not real.  We work with our minds and not our backs and the consequence is that our backs ache for lack of labor while our minds are weary from too much information.  We are a sedentary people who spend too much time in a chair, in front of a screen.  Like right now.  There is nothing wrong with it, per se, but what is wrong is when we confuse the digital reality with the true reality of things like gravity and sin and death.

So in Lent we focus on gravity -- on the constraints that have bound us and the conscience that carries its burden.  Like the illusion of independence that lies like the wreckage of a once mighty ship upon the rocks of the shore, gravity calls us to what is most real, most true.  The Word of the Lord speaks not in rhymes or platitudes but the truth that lays bare our deepest vulnerability.  Though we long to be free, sin has held us captive and we remain in bondage unless and until Christ frees us.

After the illusions are stripped away by the Law and the despair has left us with nothing but the cross, we find that we were created by God for God and that this divine purpose and life are what were missing in our futile attempt at freedom and this purpose and life are the gifts that restore to us our dependence upon Him who made and redeemed us.  Far from finding this dependence a disappointment, it becomes the only real freedom.

Gravity is a good thing.  We were made for it.  The gravity that grounds our bodies and the gravity that grounds our lives.  Facing reality means facing up to and accepting limits and boundaries. Our world is filled with make-believe and the illusion of freedom that consumes.  Into this comes the gravity of our Lord and His call to deny ourselves, take up his cross, and follow Him.  Instead of destroying our lives as sin has taught us to fear, it has given us back our lost lives.

Many of us spend our lives failing to understand just how fragile our lives truly are and how close we are to nothingness.  Lent is the helpful gravity that forces us to see with eyes wide open.  You cannot put your trust in earthly rulers, earthly kingdoms, earthly things... Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus.  He is the gravity that gives our lives identity, purpose, character, and hope.    

1 comment:

Carl Vehse said...

"So in Lent we focus on gravity -- on the constraints that have bound us and the conscience that carries its burden.....Gravity is a good thing. We were made for it. The gravity that grounds our bodies and the gravity that grounds our lives."

Great! A sermon on the gravitational force.

Now what about the other three forces that affect us just as much:

1. The strong nuclear force between nucleons, like protons and neutrons.
2. Weak nuclear force (although it is 32 orders of magnitude stronger that gravity) - the force involved in radioactive decay and sunshine.
3. Electromagnetic force - involved in the interaction with charged particles.

If not enough liturgical seasons are available, the last two forces could be combined into the electroweak force, as recognized in 1968, by Sheldon Glashow, Abdus Salam and Steven Weinberg.