Eviction from Our Snug Homes
In “Lecture II” (New and Collected Poems 1931-2001, pp. 493-494) Czeslaw Milosz writes of the banality of 20th century, pre-WWII culture and how it failed to challenge the rise of Nazism and the holocaust. In the poem he lists what Jesus “has” (note the tense) to face (a seemingly harmless list of human artifacts and activities inclusive of coffee, philosophizing, clocks and landscape paintings) and muses that nobody would have taken him seriously. The Jesus Milozs juxtaposes with the culture looks too much like a Jewish drifter—the kind the State catches and disposes of.
If the list of what Jesus has to face were in terms of 21st century churches, what would “Jesus have to face”? Hymns? Praise choruses? American flags next to Christian flags? Sermons without skeptics? Parking lots full of SUVs driven by we who over consume and live careless for the planet? Bible studies without discipleship and accountability? Baptisms without conversion and intent toward ministry? Holy Communion shared in stinginess?
Later in the same poem, Milosz writes a line many of us could take as our own confession: I wanted to equal others, behave just like them./ To shut my ears, not to hear the call of the prophets./ That’s why I understand her [a privileged woman described early in the poem]. A snug home, a garden,/ And from the depths of Hell, a fugue of Bach.
The great lack of much contemporary worship (I use the phrase generically) and spirituality is lack of depth, laziness in reflection, and self referential engagement with the surface of the dominant culture. What would be different in our gatherings for worship if we got beneath the surface where life and death meet? Where existence’s wonder, complexity and ambiguity rise up like a Bach fugue? Where we “see” the hooked nosed, the dirty and suffering? Those disposed of by the state and geopolitics? Where we see God’s threatened rivers, valley’s, oceans, and savannahs and find a will to care in our practice?
Where are the prayers, hymns and songs, preachers, and sacramental practices that stir us from our snug homes? From the false self propped up by consumerism’s myopia? If we more deeply lived the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, and didn’t avoid the Jesus who meets us in them, would we hear the prophets? Find the will to give up our snug homes and live on the road to the coming reign of God? I wonder.