Monday, March 14, 2011

Lenten Wave #5

The following was post-dated a couple of days before the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami. As I was out-of-town and away from a computer when it auto-posted, I originally pulled this “Lenten Wave” as soon as I was able. There was something about it that seemed inappropriate given the increasingly tragic circumstances of recent days in Japan. I had also considered changing the header for these postings from “Lenten Wave” to something more prosaic like “Lenten Quotation”.

However, I have been reminded that my readers are a select bunch with intelligence and discernment enough to realize that there is no mockery or malice or maladroit meaning behind these quotations that are often about water and waves. I also know that all who read this weblog understand that the starting point for these quotations is the familiar surfer expression that “you learn something from every wave”. So, with that in mind, I have re-posted the quotation below, which seems all the more poignant having seen video displaying just what kind kinetic energy a wave may manifest.

My original point in posting this quotation [and I should note that I will usually offer some sort of commentary about the quote once I’ve given myself a chance to meditate on it] was to think about the manifestation of energy, however familiar the medium through which there are presented. For me, I have always noted that the energy manifest in a community of faith may easily become a spiritual lassitude when the sense of challenge as been removed from the experience of corporate worship and action.

When I was an interim rector, I once served with a congregation in Rhode Island. Upon first meeting the vestry, I gave them my usual spiel about what is now known as transition ministry. It focused on four points to accomplish during the 12-18 months of an interim experience. The final point was “challenge”, as in find ways to challenge the spiritual envelop, so that growth continues and energy remains free to move and expand. They were appalled. That wasn’t, according to them, what church was for. It was to be the place where nothing changed, where no one felt anything other than complete satisfaction with their spiritual life; a place where the great metaphysical quest had come to its conclusion. Their long-term assistant rector nodded serenely to all of this in a placid near-coma. Good Lord.

After the meeting I checked their attendance books and discovered that there was something that had changed. Their parish now had 1/3 fewer people attending than just five years before. If only our Christian challenge could so easily be finalized by sitting in pew for an hour a week somewhere on the east side of Providence. I seem to recall my first sermon was something about striving for “divinity” instead of “bovinity”. It was as popular as had been my vestry presentation.

The Lenten season is like a series of waves, certainly, in that its days serve to give shape to a form of energy. Our delight as Christians is to recognize the energy and ride it, even if we aren’t entirely sure of what it will be by the time we close on the beach.

From The Dawn Patrol, by Don Winslow:

"The physicists call it a 'energy-transport phenomenon.'
The dictionary says it's 'a disturbance that travels through a medium from one location to another location.'
A disturbance. It's certainly that.
Something gets disturbed. That is, something strikes something else and sets off a vibration. Clap your hands right now and you'll hear a sound. What you're actually hearing is a sound wave. Something struck something else and it set off a vibration that strikes your eardrum.
The vibration is energy. It's transported through the phenomenon of a wave from one location to the other.

The water itself doesn't actually move. What happens is one particle of water bumps into the next, which bumps into the next, and so on and so forth until it hits something. It's like that idiot wave at a sports event - the people don't move around the stadium, but the wave does. The energy flows from one person to another.

So when you're riding a wave, you're not riding water. The water is the medium, but what you're really riding is energy."