January 2, 2021 at 4:14 pm #293Kelli SorgKeymaster
When you take off the halter, you are left with the truth.
This is true on so many levels. It’s so true with horses. Even the Bible talks about needing a bit to control a horse. Ps 32:9. Partnership and relationship is what happens with no bit, no reins, no halter. I believe it’s also true that partnership and communication can happen when reins and bits are used in the right hands, in the right way. As thoughtful horse people, we spend our lives trying to develop that certain touch on the reins, moving through the bit to the horse’s mouth and brain to elicit not just a response, but the other half of a creative conversation.
Because of who I am, who Holy Love is forming me to be, this sentence also has a lot to do with the church, with organized institutional religion in our time. Not just this time of pandemic, but our mistrustful, consumer-oriented, instant gratification first world church and society. If anything, this pandemic is hastening us into God’s preferred future. Our job is how we react when the halter is removed.
Organized religion, communal Christianity, is lovely in the right hands. Some of us spend our lives trying to develop that touch on the reins, bridle, and bit – on worship, service, order, and mission. But what happens when those communal understanding and practices of Sunday morning at 11 AM are taken away? Either by infectious disease or people voting with their wallets and fear.
I believe we’re seeing this play out in a few different ways.
1. People holding more and more tightly to the forms of worship and community, especially through the tempting seduction of the Internet that feels like community but, in fact, is not. I am holding my hand up, being guilty of this myself. Online worship as entertainment has withered the messy business of real people with real personalities that don’t always get along. For some, online worship may be a temporary stop-gap measure, but I believe only a small remnant of folks will return to face-to-face worship in a non-entertainment church setting. And maybe that’s not a bad thing.
Jesus’ incarnation- that $5 word that means Jesus becoming human means – that our humanness wasn’t made more shameful but has been redeemed, resurrected, and put right. The best setting for living that out begins with small groups of dedicated Jesus followers. The definition of the small in-house church. This is a strength that the rural church already enjoys. Listening to and learning from those small churches will benefit us immensely.
2. People completely turning their backs on organized religion (the halter) to either practice a private religion (“I’m spiritual but not religious”) or no religion at all. I believe this is a necessary corrective measure to the materialistic ‘success’ of our institutional religious past. Religion has been handed out with shame and guilt as moderator for a strictly legalistic behavior-oriented group life. This legalism encourages group think, a denial of intellectualism and is reductionist. It reduces every question, every circumstance down to an either-or choice for which one option is superior and the other damned. This is true of everything from gender to Bible translations to the answer to the questions “Would you like coffee or tea?”. This insidious judgementalism plays right it into the hands of modern woke-ness which really isn’t doing anything but changing the emotions (the driver) behind the questions and answers.
In my opinion, this option is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Just because some of organized religion hasn’t worked in the rough hands of domineering riders hauling on the reins and using the bit as punishment, Jesus hasn’t left the church and he is more saddened and angrier about it than we are.
Connecting with nature, animals, and all of God’s good creatures is an important element of our lives as part of Creation. But that connection isn’t a substitute for doing “life together”. Human beings were created to be in committed relationships with God and other people.
One of John Wesley’s correctives to 18th century Anglicanism was the formation of classes, bands, and societies of people following Jesus together. These activities were not to control behavior but to offer a safe place to ask and answer on of life’s most important questions, “How is it with your soul?”
The best visual to sum up people’s reactions to these changing times is to look at the horsemen’s experience when the halter comes off. Different horses are taught to stand quietly and wait for the person to step away before they move a muscle.
Some horses will wheel away running and shaking their heads like they’ve just been let out of prison.
Some will stand quietly and once you’ve moved far enough away, they’ll saunter over to the water trough, start grazing, or take a good old roll in the dust.
And some will simply stand and move with you. I know several horses that will walk with me all the way to the gate or will hang out and graze near wherever I am standing. Those horses always seem to be offering to do more, to want to simply be with people. I’ve seen horses kick a ball back and forth with a person, mimic their movements until it feels like dancing or even walk through the woods with people completely without halter or lead ropes.
All of those reactions when the halter is removed are based on relationships and maturity.
Are we running away from church, glad to be free of it, shaking our heads and kicking up our heels?
Are we waiting quietly until God seems to be gone and then just getting on with our life?
Or are we staying with Holy Love, participating in the next dance, great adventure, on new creatures.
Someone asked me just recently what I thought God was up to by causing this pandemic. What a loaded question! Not something you can answer in 30 seconds or less. The short answer to this: God didn’t cause it, it’s not up to us to jump to conclusions and point fingers and people just need to be kinder to each other.
We are being given opportunities to clean house, to right the ship, to get back to the basics- Love the Lord your God and Love your neighbors as yourself.
Help people, don’t be selfish, don’t be stupid or mean. Realize with all your heart that all you can see is not all there is. Accept that we desperately need each other.
At some point, when the halter is removed, even the most energetic horse will stop and look around as if to say, “What was that all about?” That is our choice and challenge in these days to ask that same question. The future depends on the answers we discover and build.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.