Katie’s Musings: Gloriously Ambiguous
September 29 2016
I’m going to let you in on a little clerical secret: sometimes, when preachers preach, they later discover that they were preaching to themselves as much as they were preaching to anyone else. And I have to tell you, those Jazz-Age windows have been running through my brain for a few weeks now.
A brief explanation, in case you missed it: a little over a week ago, I found myself preaching on the ambiguity passed down to us at First Central by the saints of First Central days gone by. Our beautiful, Jazz-Age windows portray, not specific scenes from the Bible or obvious symbolic references to specific themes, but swirling, glorious blues and reds and oranges that portay … nothing, really. Nothing tangible. And we contemplated together what that could mean, what sorts of message they were trying to send us by selecting, not the answer, but the question. Not the steadiness, but the syncopation of the world around them. It was not the sermon I initially anticipated giving, but once I made the connection, I couldn’t really let it go.
So much of what I learned in my research for the sermon sounded very familiar to me. The time period that produced our gloriously ambiguous windows was a time of great and profound upheaval in this country. Mass media, quickly-shifting social norms, election cycle drama, technological advancement, etc. A familiar syncopation, I think. And in times of great upheaval, it’s tempting to rest on existing norms and certainties about our communities and our world. The concrete categories that we rely upon to make sense of the people we meet and the world around us provide us with great comfort when things are not inherently comfortable. And it’s quite frankly easier to exist if we allow ourselves to assume that we, “know things for sure.”
The problem is that the world simply is not created to be “either/or.” It is a world of, “Not this, but… not that either.” There is no living, breathing being that exists that can be shoved into any, “either/or” category. We are all complex, come with our own baggage, our own experiences of truth and belonging, and to fence anyone into one category or another will inevitably sell that person entirely short and make us unable to experience that person’s wholeness.
Our windows serve as a message through the ages from our saints that, not only is God a creator of gloriously ambiguity, but that we all have the priviledge of being a part of God’s gloriously ambiguous creation. And that priviledge requires work on our part, to see past the initial boxes and inward to the real, living, breathing, and equally-ambiguous person who lies within.
And let’s be real: it’s not always easy to do. In fact, I suspect ambiguous, open-ended thinking usually isn’t. I’m going to work on it this fall, so I’ll let you know what I discover.
Have a gloriously ambiguous October!