I’ve just returned from a rich, engaging weekend, full of thoughtful people and packed with insight I have yet to fully process. But I returned to a head cold, absent roommates and an attitude that I thought I had left behind. All week, I have used my illness, the shuttered federal government, or a busy schedule as excuses from pressing in to the life that has been given me. I have resented the care of my home, cursed the work I have been given to do and squandered the time that I was given.
At Hutchmoot, Jonathan Rogers gave us some thoughts – for free, he said. Not what you paid for. He told a story of turning in his swivel chair to talk with his wife. When a “ding” sounded from behind him, it took all of his concentration not to turn his back on his bride and attend to his email. Charles Hummel has written about “the tyranny of the urgent.” But I think it’s more than that. It’s an inversion of importance, from the tangible to the intangible. And this isn’t an isolated problem; it pervades nearly every category of thinking.
Jonathan spoke not of the “sins of the flesh” but of the “sins of the fleshlessness.” We devote ourselves to disembodied devices trusting in them for entertainment, distraction, community. But in so doing, we miss the world around us that the God of the Universe spoke into being. We ignore the image of God as he stands behind us in the line at the grocery store. We sit at a restaurant, phones on the table, waiting to be called to something better, all the while missing the holiness of the community within arms’ reach.
Keith Getty and Kevin Twit talked about thinking about theology the way that scripture does, and presented, as an example, the idea that God is a rock. Scripture uses that metaphor time and time again, but we are much more comfortable applying vast theological terms to God, ascribing worth to Him because of His omnipotence. But to call Him a rock seems too small, too…earthy. Yet that is how God reveals Himself to us. The tangible takes precedence over the intangible. We serve a God who came in the flesh; who appeared to His creation in the most tangible way possible. Perhaps it should not surprise when, in our sin, we diminish the sacred in the earth, in each other.
This weekend realigned importance. Tables had been prepared and Lewis and company worked tirelessly, with great joy to set those tables with food worth savoring. The food itself was a reminder of the glorious earthiness of creation – no microwaves, no shortcuts, just delicious flavors getting to know one another over a gas range in a church basement. These were extravagant riches. In all of this, I was surrounded by no mere mortals, but the very image of God. His grace was all around me, in this community of weary saints, pressing in to the choice to learn to love what they’ve been given.
Bonhoeffer writes, “It is grace, nothing but grace that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.” And indeed, it was a weekend of grace. I was shown unmerited favor as people I did not know spoke about their worlds as if I inhabited them as well. New friends were as unguarded in their weariness as I am with only my dearest friends. This community that has formed would have very little in common if you sparked a political debate or grouped people by their chosen career. Family structure, family history, denominational affiliation – these would all divide us further. But for four days, we lean in to loving that which God has given us, in the hopes that when we return home, we will continue to find beauty and worth in the postage stamps God has placed us.
My confession to you, dear reader, is that I have not done this well. I have been restless, short-tempered and unimaginative. Meals have not been shared, books have not been opened and questions have not been asked. I have horded the riches of Hutchmoot, reluctant to open my hand and give them away, forgetting that I serve a God who draws manna from the sky and water from the desert. He multiplies our feeblest offerings and bids us only to come. I will fail, but I will press on: further up and further in!