the blog I almost wrote

I was about to blog about an issue I have with using up a particular resource when performing one of my favourite magic tricks when I realised that if I did I might well be revealing a bit more about that illusion than I would want to. That could have several unwanted results:

  1. For people who have seen me perform that effect and then read this bloggage the illusion would be weakened.
  2. For people who haven’t seen me perform that effect and then read this bloggage the bloggage would not make much sense.
  3. I could get thrown out of the Magic Circle for revealing too much about the method.

People who perform magical illusions try not to reveal the secrets. This is not because we are maintaining some form of cartel to keep ‘muggles’ ignorant nor because we want to maintain a delusion* of superiority. It’s not even primarily because it would put magicians out of work. It’s first and foremost because the effect and impact of the illusion would be diminished or even destroyed by showing how it is done. Yes the performer may gain some degree of credit or kudos for showing people how clever / dexterous / ingenious they have been but for the audience what was hopefully a moment of amazement, delight and perhaps even awe has been reduced to ‘oh’. The magic has been replaced with an explanation. It’s like deconstructing a joke. The funny is taken out of the joke in the explanation of why it is funny.

I wonder sometimes whether the wonder has been taken out of church in a similar way. We ask questions about God (rightly so) and we try to deepen our understanding of God (a good thing) and in the nonconformist wing of the church in which I find myself most comfortable we have almost made a virtue of simplicity (and ugly buildings) in an effort to show that you don’t need anything special to encounter God (and I don’t disagree with that intention).

20140217_130518But are we also in danger of losing the awe, the wonder, the mystery of God? I was talking with someone recently about Canterbury Cathedral (above) and one of the things it does for you when you enter the vast space and see the height of the vaulted ceiling is that it takes your breath away. I think that was the intention of the designers. Not so that people would go, “Wow, what a building!” but “Wow, how amazing God must be to inspire people to create a place like this in order to worship him!”

But it’s not just buildings that can do this.

Ideally we followers of Jesus should have such God-refined character that when people look at us they say, “Wow, how amazing God must be when you look at his followers!” And Jesus had something to say about that (my paraphrase): “If you love one another in the same way that God loves people then when people look at you it will be blindingly obvious that you are my followers.”

Is it?

Be blessed, be a blessing

*yes, I meant to write that

an ickle bloggage to break you back in

Well, we’re back. We had a lovely couple of days in which we marked off another year on my calendar and celebrated that I am one year closer to retirement (although they keep moving the goalposts for that!).

2014-02-17 13.01.57We went to Canterbury and I went into the Cathedral for the first time ever. It is an amazing building, especially when you think it was built without any of our modern machinery, gizmos and thingummywotsits. It is a bit more ornate than your ordinary Baptist church. (A friend of mine once commented that Victorian Baptists made a virtue of ugliness!)

I was trying to work out why they built it so tall. I am sure there is a good reason (acoustics?) but the answer I came to is that it forces you to crane your neck to look up so you are already looking in the right direction. This assumes (incorrectly) that heaven is located above us, but you get the point.

How often do we stop and look upwards, open-mouthed, in awe and wonder? Not at a ceiling a long way above us, but at God. I took a funeral service this afternoon and in that service I used some words that reflect how far beyond our comprehension God is, yet how intimately with us he is:

Eternal God, source of all life and inspiration for living you are too mysterious to understand, too awesome to behold. In our imagining of you you are further from us than we can conceive, yet in our experience of you you are closer to us than we are to ourselves. Thank you for dwelling in us and being present for us in each other.

Time to look up?

Be blessed, be a blessing.