Saturday, June 19, 2010

Toto Takes A Sacrament

Until fairly recently, the more educated a person living in the Western World became, they more he or she would tend to define reality as “things that can be perceived through the five senses."
We have been debating for centuries whether there is anything beyond the world we perceive through the five senses. Every culture (and every generation) tends to answer this fundamental question differently. We are just emerging from an era when most people have doubted whether there was anything beyond.

In their heart of hearts, even many Western Christians have doubted.

Lately, we have entered a new era. Now, many people seem ready to believe in anything, or to believe and disbelieve at the same time, or to believe one thing for one component of their lives – perhaps their social life, for example -- and to disbelieve it for another component –perhaps their workplace.

It’s pretty confusing right now.

Well, how could we not be confused?

We are born into a world of matter. We experience the reality that tells us material effects have material causes. We have learned about germs and molecules. The world seems solidly material at every level. And yet, we also feel things, experience things, and imagine things that seem not to make sense in a world of mere matter.

Somehow, love just doesn’t feel to us like the irresistible push of biology or like an evolutionary instinct to insure the survival of our species.

Justice doesn’t really feel like mere group loyalty.

Aesthetic appreciation certainly doesn’t feel to us like a right brain appreciation for mathematical proportion and balance.

In the last few centuries, most educated people have tried to adjust their feelings, even dismiss them. They wanted, after all, to be sensible people.

It’s just at our most treasured moments we just can’t seem to be sensible!

Music makes us weep. Love makes us write poetry. Justice moves us to risk our lives. Such experiences don’t make sense if sanity is defined by our acceptance of “reality” as simply another way of saying, “the material world.”

The people of Western Civilization were trying to be sensible but then were hit by revolutionary scientific and mathematical theories; such as relativity and quantum mechanics. These theories told us that things like “time” and “distance” do not really exist. They taught us that the mere act of observing something changes its nature. Therefore, we can’t be certain what things are like when they are not observed … blah, blah, blah, blah ….

What were we normal people supposed to think when our experts suddenly could not agree on a definition for “reality”?

Eastern religions tend to deny the reality of the material world any world. They say that the material world is an illusion.

YIKES! Dorothy, where did Kansas go?

We post-moderns are doing our best to make sense of the world. Sometimes, like when we are in love, the Eastern mystics seem right. At other times, like when we need medical treatment, Western materialists seem to be right. (Unless we decide to go for acupuncture, voodoo or herbs!)
We get confused: is the universe material or spiritual?

Is matter or spirit the illusion?

The new uncertainties of the Western World call for answers that Christians have always had but have lately forgotten.

Christianity does not force us to choose between matter and spirit. Christianity teaches that reality is, (and indeed that we ourselves are) both material and spiritual.

Christianity also claims that God, who rules the spiritual world, is Creator and Lord of the material world too.

That what we mean when we say that “we believe in One God, the Father Almighty, creator of all things, visible and invisible.”

Once a week, we explore both parts of the universe, seen and unseen, by peering through thin places in the wall of our material word.

The thin places are called sacraments.

What pours through them is called grace.

Dorothy discovered how this works with a simple pair of red slippers. When her feet clicked the shoes together, she left the crazy world of Oz and landed back home.

Christians do this every Sunday with water, wine and bread.

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