Hyper-tension

I wanted to spend some time talking about Dialectical theology today—I know sounds terrifying, but just stay with me for a minute.

Around the turn of the 20th century Dialectical Theology became a popular way of thinking about faith and God and all the big questions. Karl Barth may be one of the more prominent theologians who advocated for this approach. The idea here is that we aren’t necessarily looking for answers, but instead, we are looking for tensions. For example, on one end of the spectrum is ideological and on the end is practical. There is a need for both of these approaches, however, if we become completely ideological, we lose our ability to live within the world around us. If we become too realistic, we fall out of touch with the radical nature of the gospel and the places where God is pushing us to pursue the kingdom. Neither approach is an answer unto itself, but living in the tension in between is where the truth lies.

This idea of virtue being the happy median in between two extremes is not a new idea. Aristotle’s ethics were based upon very similar thinking. Unfortunately, in this day and age, there are many who might see this reasonable approach to compromise as being somehow unfaithful. However, the gospel story is filled with these kinds of tension, and there is plenty to support this kind of reason within the Christian tradition.

Perhaps the greatest of all tensions comes in the gospel lesson this week—Palm/Passion Sunday. On the one hand you have the joyous arrival of the Messiah onto the streets of Jerusalem. On the other hand, there is the foreboding end of the story that we all know lies around the corner. There is the Irony of a king’s welcome in tension with the funeral procession to the cross about to take place. There is so much tension and so much depth to the events of Palm/Passion Sunday.

When we think about it, this makes so much sense given the lives we live as well. Last Sunday was the perfect example. Here we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of Covenant, and yet, it also happened to be the Sunday where we talked about “letting go of the past,” and “leaving it at the table.” Talk about tension! The fact is, we know there is much to celebrate about our past, yet, if that is where we dwell, we lose track of where God is calling us to be in the here and now.

So many of the things we have been letting go of probably fall into this kind of tension. Several of you have spoken with me about the discomfort of letting go of vengeance—where does vengeance end and justice begin? Certainly an important question, and one in which the Truth lies somewhere in the tension between Vengeance and avoidance of the realities of oppression.

This week we take on “Plans for the Future.” Again, I think this is a place of tension. Giving up all future plans doesn’t exactly make sense for any of us. However, when we have come to a rigid dependence on things going exactly according to plan, we will most surely find ourselves disappointed. Not only that, but we will prevent ourselves from seeing the movement of God’s Spirit in our midst! Perhaps that is why those disciples couldn’t see what was actually taking place in the events of Holy Week—There was a very specific plan for what this Messiah was supposed to be doing!

I think what all of this points to is how very complicated the realities of this world are. Perhaps there is reassurance in this as well. When we find ourselves uncomfortable and in a place of tension, the Spirit of God may be close at hand. Keep this in mind as we begin our journey into Holy week where both the reality of death and the promise of Resurrection are held in tight tension over the week to come.

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