During the last year, I wrote a series of blog posts, each dealing with the Gospel reading for the upcoming Sunday. After working through basically the entire liturgical cycle, it’s time to begin a new project!
Since Steve and I have been dwelling in (not “being of”) and interacting with the world in our new podcast, Pop Culture Coffee Hour, I’ve decided to take that experiment just a step further.
And that is what brings us to…
Pop Culture Espresso Shots!
The dividing wall between sacred and secular is one that we often erect ourselves, and frankly, I’m tired of it. The reality is that every “secular” ritual carries sacred implications, and every “sacred” act can become secular. To divide the heavenly and the earthly is to do violence to the Word of God made flesh, who in His very Body brought creation to its proper union with the Uncreated God.
Since we’re Christians, we’re going to do more of that.
Christ Himself sets this example, not simply in the deep theology of His saving Incarnation, but even in the simple way He spoke to people. There is a reason that He told parables to capture the minds and hearts of His hearers. Jesus could have simply spoken to them of heavenly realities, telling them directly about divine forgiveness, telling them directly about the need for cultivating good deeds. He could have simply told us that man lives off God’s Word and left it at that.
But He didn’t.
Instead of telling us about God’s forgiveness, He showed us through a banal story about a father and his hapless son.
Instead of telling us about the need for cultivating good deeds, He told us a story about a farmer and some seeds.
Instead of merely preaching the need for God’s Word, He gave us Himself as real food and real drink, as Bread and Wine become Body and Blood.
It seems that God has a knack for using the ordinary as a gateway to the extraordinary.
Imagining the Extraordinary
When I was a kid, my mother read The Horse and His Boy to me, replacing the boy’s name with my own. Suddenly, the story of Shasta became my story. I had entered an extraordinary world through the very ordinary act of a mother reading a story to her son.
I became the subject of Aslan’s love. And he (He) became the subject of my own.
Now, as an adult, I understand that the real subject of my love, the real person towards whom my heart had been turned in the reading of this children’s book, was Christ Himself.
These stories capture our hearts because they are true. They are beautiful. And they are impossible.
We love Frodo because he is so little and yet overcomes the villainous Sauron. We love Narnia because animals speak. And we love Spider-Man (some of us) because he is the nerdy underdog who suddenly can walk up walls.
We love stories with impossible things.
Sadly, many of us have lost the ability to see the truth. We have lost our love of beauty. And worst of all, we have lost our ability to imagine the impossible happening.
With this sad reality buried in our hearts, how can we possibly be expected to believe the Gospel, the most impossible thing ever to have happened?
Stories thus provide a valuable training ground for our hearts, teaching us to long for the impossible. Teaching us to dwell on that which is good, noble, and pure.
On that which is true.
Telling the Truth: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
For Christians, the Truth is a person: the Crucified and Risen Lord. The Gospel of Christ tells us the truth about God and about ourselves.
The Good Truth: Our God gives His Life to defeat death.
The Crucified Body of Jesus Christ reveals to us that we have a God who is willing to give Himself fully, willingly submitting Himself to death for the sake of those He
“loved to the end.” Not to mentioned that the Resurrection shows us that death will be defeated and the dead shall also be raised.
The Bad Truth: We killed Him.
But the Gospel also shows us the scary truth about ourselves. We are violent. We are lost. We have strayed so far from our God and desire so much to be our own masters that, when our Creator comes close to us, we kill Him. We don’t want Him, and we go to great lengths to escape or get rid of Him.
The Ugly Truth: Humanity is horribly disfigured.
And the reason we try to kill Him is because He shows us the truth about ourselves. There, hanging on the Cross, the Lord shows us what it is to be human: beaten, bloodied, broken. In a word: crucified.
The Gospel shows us first that God is Love. It also shows us that we can’t handle that love. And our inability to handle that love reaches deeper than we could possibly imagine.
Learning to Fly: The Possible Impossiblity
That the Word of God would become a human infant born of a virgin; that He would live a life in submission to a human mother and Divine Father; that He would willingly enter death at the hands of His creatures; that He would be raised from the dead after three days….
All of this. Is. Impossible.
Overcoming the intellectual impossibility of these things cannot occur through our rational faculties. We know too much about science, and our heads get in the way.
Believing in the impossible is a job for the heart. We must thus embrace story-telling as the sacred art it is.
To truly know the real world, and not just know about the real world, we must spend time inhabiting worlds where good thoughts (and a little fairy dust) can make people fly.
We must dwell in places where the Good Guys win and the Bad Guys lose.
We need stories where someone can be a villain until the last minute of the last act and finally find some peace. Stories where, no matter how dark the night, the sun rises again.
We need to begin imagining the impossible, otherwise we won’t be able to believe in a God who makes the impossible happen.
So I'm gonna go make some popcorn and see what God is up to in the new season of Daredevil.
Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.