Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. Matthew 11: 20-22
I rode the underground in London for the first time in 1985. I recall wondering how the cautionary pronouncement influenced my behavior. Transport for London in a particular British manner invites their passengers to “Mind the Gap.”
The transport’s purpose enables travelers to reach safely their destinations. Similar transport systems offer warnings to avoid litigation as well as for thier folks to arrive intact. (definitely check out the MBTA’s Safety Bounce video.”
I recall another attention getting invitation about gaps from the 80s.
These advertisers encouraged folks to “Fall into the Gap.” Yikes!!! Did we really buy those clothes and listen to those tunes. Seemingly. you can still find great deals in “The Gap.”
Curious, isn’t it? On the one hand, we’re prompted to avoid gaps. On the other hand we’re encouraged to do everything we can to rush into them. I’m an Anglican so I believe it is important to find a middle way. (Via Media). I’m not completely on board with the MBTA. Yes, it is mortally perilous to step into the gap when 50 people are trying to get off of the Green Line at Copley Square. Conversely, spiritually speaking at least, gaps may be our friends. Gaps beckon us to examine our faith, uncover things we would rather not look at today, tomorrow, or any time soon. Looking into a gap, practically requires travelers to examine risky surroundings. Descending into the depths of an unexplored chasm means digging up something we’d prefer to leave alone. Shooting the gap often requires discovering something we need to get on with our lives in a new way.
Consider some scripture that many Christians will hear tomorrow. Readers will hop all around Genesis 24. In that story, Abraham sends out his best servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. And, the lectionary designers would prefer for congregations not to read verses 39-41 and 50-57.
Why? Maybe because the reading is too long. We wouldn’t want worship to last longer than 75 minutes now would we? No? Well, there are aspects of the text that some readers might find uncomfortable. For example, Abraham expressly tells his servant to not go searching for a Canaanite girl. (foreigner!). Also, Abraham’s servant has brought along a bunch of loot to persuade potential brides. Once he finds Rebekah, he entices her to accept his bidding with gold, silver, jewelry, and clothes. (kinda like an ancient traveling Gap Store). Ah, and he knew how to convince the menfolk too. They all sat down, ate, drank, and spent the night together.
Some things never change.
Tomorrow’s Revised Common Lectionary New Testament Gospel also has a gap. Jesus is comparing himself to John The Baptist. He suggests that critics condemned John’s prophetic words and works because he was too pious. Jesus’ critics mock him because Jesus hangs out with sinners and drinks too much wine. Then, we skip over a few verses. Suddenly Jesus invites followers to seek well-being with him, especially those people who are heavy burdened and tired.
Wait …. what’s in Matthew 11: 20-24?
Jesus calls out his critics to repent. Repentance isn’t just about saying I’m sorry. Jesus’ call to repent is a attention-getting announcement to look more deeply.
Repentance, in spiritual and relational terms is a gap analysis project. The outcome of such a pilgrimage isn’t coming up with a successful retail business. Albeit, many of our congregations would benefit from such endeavors. And, brave gappers possess spiritual leadership to re-create, re-new, and rediscover the joys of Christ’s reign. The steps they take are to descend courageously into the sacred spaces of reading scripture, daily contemplation, and loving discipleship.
Are you afraid to begin? No shit! Falling down can hurt. Getting lost in a dark hole drags up memories of getting stuck in similarly shadowy places. Consider this, every time you witness someone (including yourself) who is addicted to a drug, a habit, an evil behavior, you are observing someone who needs to repent, not because they are bad. They require a change of being because life isn’t meant to be lived in desperate, hopeless holes.. Life is meant to be lived – mindfully, intentionally, purposefully.
Richard Rohr teaches that all addictions begin with the ways we think about ourselves, other people, binary systems. God and our mindless gaps know what other truths we avoid, discount, delay or refuse to acknowledge. Thus, to initiate a transformational process…be mindful of the gap. What purpose is God seeking you to discover about yourself for your family’s, professional, community’s, world’s sake? Who is going with you? Who offers a lifeline in case you slip? Sharing sacraments with other believers, praying without ceasing, sharing common goods and grace in common places of your life. Jump or climb out using these resources. Laugh, cry, shut up, listen, look.
Back in the 80s…right there with gap commercials and cautionary subway announcements there was a wise Anglican scholar by the name of Marcus Borg . He was an expert at navigating gaps, in scripture as well as in developing a person’s spiritual life. He wrote: “God wills that we see ourselves as God’s beloved. God wills our resurrection, our passage from death to life.” (Borg, 1997, p. 5) This is the Christian’s unrealized yet faithful vision. If you’re in church tomorrow – observe if your worship leaders speak to the gaps. If not, ask why? If you’re considering how you would like to pass from death to life and believe resurrection is both true and assured – go find a gap to explore those truths. Share your adventures with us. Don’t go crazy and jump in front of a train or spend all of your paycheck. And, go intentionally, prayerfully, and with blessed senses of grace and awe.
Blessings along The Way