Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Word of God 2: Let it rip(ple).

[ARGH! I wrote this Wednesday night and thought I posted it, but I guess I just saved a draft. Sorry! I owe you one!]

So, my dad is pleased to be on the blog, and my friend John emailed to say he thinks my dad is great. So apparently the whole "thou shalt not steal" thing... not so big a deal when it comes to church property.

But I guess it's better than my brother-in-law, who stole a tabernacle because he "wanted to be close to Jesus". Given the fact that the guy in the top bunk of his cell was actually named Jesus, I guess it all sort of worked out. But still, I don't really recommend it.

But anyway... we were talking about the word of God and wondering what the added value of the whole speaking thing is. Here's what I was thinking: it makes the readings into events. That is, each reading is something that happens, literally an event that happens to me, here and now.

Which I think -- and maybe I'm wrong -- is a little different than the act of reading. Reading something can have a huge impact on you, as I rediscovered a few weeks ago bawling my eyes out on a plane as I read the amazing The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold. (Go get this book now.) But still, when you're reading, you're the one in control -- you're the one turning the pages, or stopping, or skimming because my God I didn't buy a John Grisham novel to read descriptions. You are the boss.

Something read aloud is almost more like a movie, or like an unexpected visit from a friend -- rather than take control, you are to sit back and be open to whatever may happen. If there's a grace to be asked for as the readings begin, it's to let go and let things in.

If you want a very poser-Buddhist visual: you are the still lake, and the reading is a stone dropped in. Let it ripple.

Or you're a bell and the readings are the hammer. Listen for where you ring.

This is not easy. First of all, most of us don't spend much of our time listening to people read. So, not an easy task. Plus, most of the readings we've heard a hundred times before. And being super-familiar, they're super-hard to actually hear. There's no surprise there. They're the Old Testament version of Captain and Tennille, Christian elevator music. (Except after you hear "Love Will Keep us Together", you can't get it out of your head, whereas the readings usually don't seem to stick around too long.)

See. Now I can't get "Love will Keep us Together" out of my head.

Damn you and your crazy eyes, Captain!

I think in the ideal what we hope for going into the readings is that instead of audio wallpaper, we'll be surprised. That something unexpected will happen or hit us, such that we're sent off on a little journey of our own -- a memory bubbles up, or a feeling, or a question, or just a word.

And when that happens, our job is to treat it, whatever it is, like a special gift -- like the last lifesaver in the roll. Like a Tootsie Roll Pop. Don't chew it up, grind it out trying to understand it. Just savor it. Enjoy it. Let it make its ripples.

I know, I know it sounds crazy. Plus, you're still humming Captain and Tennille, aren't you, so you're distracted. But try it sometime. Just sit there and try not to be in control. See what happens.


Annie said...

Thanks for the earworm. No, really, thanks.

I completely agree with the greater impact things have when heard. I've read the whole Harry Potter series at least twice through. But reading it aloud to my son, even I get so much more of the subtleties, the nuances, the details. It's a much richer experience, and I find myself wondering if I actually did read some of these chapters. We're a quarter way through book #6, and know we won't finish book 7 for at least 3 or 4 months, reading a partial chapter every night.

Jim McDermott, SJ said...

Wow. What a cool example. Thanks for sharing it!
If you need a replacement earworm, how about "(There's Got to Be) A Morning After" ? Enjoy!

Michelle said...

There is also the physical touch that reading aloud provides. Sound is literally air moving from reader to listener...another way to be touched by God's Real Presence.