Preacher: The Rev. Doyt L. Conn, Jr.
I went to the Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. The exhibit is built around a series of rooms that you step into for twenty seconds. Inside are fabric balloons, or soft fabric tubulars, or fabric pumpkins all of varying sizes and colors. The walls and ceiling are mirrors, so the effect is that the space and whatever fills it goes on infinitely.
For those of you who haven’t heard about this exhibit, it is wildly popular and was sold out all over the country.
I was talking to a friend about it. She is a retired professor of art history, and has known the work of the artist, Yayoi Kusama for years. This particular show intrigued my friend. Her curiosity was peeked by the very broad popularity of this art, combined with the behavior of the people at the exhibit itself. THEY seemed more like Simon and Garfunkel groupies than Seattle art aficionados.
Maybe, she suggested, it’s because the interior of the rooms produced a trance like effect on the viewer, which could account for the “chill” and “easy” mood that captivated people standing in line waiting for their next viewing.
And her reflection made me wonder: Is the popularity of this exhibit another example of people’s desire to escape these divisive and turbulent times? There are worse ways to get through tough times than interesting art. Escapism is an option. But I think we were made for something more than just enduring, or hunkering down, or hiding out, or getting by.
The Apostle Paul felt the same way. Today we find ourselves in the 13th chapter of his letter to the Romans. It is near the end, and Paul is getting to the point, with these words: “You know what time it is.”
It’s not a question, at this point, but a statement; and yet, since we’re picking up the conversation a little late, maybe we don’t know what time it is. Maybe we’re wondering… “What time is it, Paul?” Are you wondering… “What time is it, Paul?
Maybe Paul’s asking me or you what time it is for us right now. Maybe it’s back to school time. Maybe it’s football time. Maybe it’s time to rake the leaves. But I don’t think that’s the time Paul is talking about.
Maybe he’s talking about our community’s time…Maybe it’s election time. Maybe it’s time to deal with North Korea. Maybe it’s time to help the homeless or pave the roads. But I don’t think that’s the time Paul is talking about.
Maybe he’s talking about global time…Maybe he’s talking about the patterns and seasons and changes that are happening to our earth. Maybe he’s referring to hurricanes & global warming. Maybe he’s referring the extinction of trees & bugs & plants & polar bears. But I don’t think that’s the time Paul is talking about.
All these times are important. They matter. And they’re worth our attention. But the time Paul’s talking about is time that pattern matches to a deeper source.
“You know what time it is,” Paul writes. And you, because you’re here and you know Paul, indeed know what time it is… It’s God’s time. And when God’s time is the primary measure of all time, then our lives are synchronized to God and God’s love; and we become electric and bright and joyful and awake.
Circumstances may be tough. Storms rage. Wars erupt. Illness happens. But when our lives are synchronized with the love of God, then instead of avoiding the reality of whatever time we are in, instead of “trancing out” (if that is even a word), we seek to be fully present. And then, and we’ve seen this before, though maybe too rarely, THEN there is joy even in the midst of times that are tough. Joy prevails. Laughter erupts. Grace happens.
That is what time it is. The question is: Is your life synchronized to that deeper time? This place you’re sitting in today was built to be the inside of God’s divine clock. Look around-This is our infinity room, designed to wake us up. This is the casing for the clock that ticks to God’s time. Here we are synchronized. Here we are rewound. Here we are calibrated for joy and love. That is the point of worship, and it wakes us up.
The Dictionary defines worship this way: “Worship is to honor with extravagant love and extreme obedience” You’ll note the two parts: Extravagant love… that good. Extreme obedience… well, not so popular. Not in this culture. Not in this city. This is the Pacific NW.
But here is what I know, because I know so many of you…everything that you have accomplished has required obedience to something…to a pattern, a goal, a person, or a vision.
The spiritual life is no different. When people say to me: “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” what jumps to mind is “Yes you are spiritual. If you’re alive you’re spiritual.” To say I’m spiritual is like saying I have a body. “Yes. I see you have a body.”
Now tell me something interesting, like what you ask your body to do. Tell me what you eat. Tell me how you exercise. Tell me now many words you can type a minute. Tell me what you do with your body to use your body as it was made to be used by you.
That is the same question I have for your spirit, incidentally. Yes, you are spiritual. That is obvious. But to say you’re not religious is to say you have nothing that you are obedient to that seeks to fine tune, or calibrate, or enlighten, that spirit you have. That is not very interesting. And, incidentally, it’s not very healthy.
What happens in this place, this church, every week, is a spiritual exercise to wake us up to the power of love. That is what happens here. It is a circuit for our soul.
Like that circuit we do at the “Y” with a little cardio here, and a little quad lift there, and a bit of core strengthening over there. This is a circuit for your soul.
Now here is the interesting thing. You and I can be doing the same exercise at the “Y,” but I may doing it because I’m overweight and my doctor gave me an ultimatum. And you may be doing it because you’re training to run a marathon.
Same with the spiritual exercise of worship. You may be working toward walking on water, while I’m working through childhood trauma. That is all good, because we are both being synchronized to God’s time, and waking up to the power of love.
Here is the reality. If you went to the “Y” every few days for 30 years, even if you just went because everyone in your neighborhood went, still, in thirty years you’d be huge. Even if you weren’t going with a particular goal in mind, you’d still be stronger. And if one day you were walking down the street, and, in a freak accident, a person got pinned to a wall by a car, you’d be able to pull that car off. God uses our strengths whether we know them or not.
Same with church. Tons of people for a long time just went to church. They didn’t know why. They lived in a place where everyone went to church. So they went, and they grew in spiritual strength. Some came to see this reality, others never did; but God uses our strengths whether we know them or not.
In Seattle there is no neighborly pressure to go to church… is there? And so if we don’t know why to go, if we don’t know that we’re strengthening our spiritual muscles, if we don’t have the expectation that we’ll become more joyful and loving over time, then it is unlikely we’ll keep going to church over time.
So, I’m here to remind us today what church does. It is a circuit for the soul. It synchronizes us to God’s time. It calibrates our spirit so we better deal with all the times we find ourselves in.
It’s why we bring our children to church, incidentally, even if they don’t fully understand the exercise. It makes them spiritually stronger, over time, so when that day comes when they find themselves out of sync, they know what it takes to recalibrate their soul.
Worship is a circuit for thesoul, that awakens us to the power and reality of God. It gives us clarity, not sleepiness. And when we are connected to the deeper time of God, we naturally live out the reality of today’s Gospel… that we love our neighbor as our self. And when this happens as habit, division becomes less divisive. Borders are broken. Walls tumble. Polarization melts.
What time is it? You know what time it is! It is time to prioritize synchronizing our lives to God’s time. It is time to wake up. It is time to be spiritual giants. The world is desperate for what we have to offer. It is time to love our neighbor as our self.
That is why we are here. That is what happens when we synchronize to God’s time. That is what worship does. It is a circuit for the soul. And it not only makes a difference in the world, it allows the world to be what the world was created to be.