How is it that we form such strong bonds with those on line? I often get into the most profound discussions with regards to faith with those I have never met. Is it because our noble thoughts often cannot support the scrutiny of the lived-out reality of faith? I know that I try to live up to the faith that I espouse. I try to ‘walk the talk’. But I am all too human in how I live (read: sinful).
And as much as I want to NOT be Platonic in the way I describe my faith, I know that it is how I finally evaluate others and myself on the scale of things. Invariably I begin with the perfect, that image of the best in my mind and then evaluate myself and others against it. It is an impossible way to live. No wonder we grow up neurotic and constantly striving for that which we cannot accomplish. And yet… And yet… How do we become better, more practiced, more nuanced, mature, if we do not push our boundaries? And how do we even image those 'pushed boundaries' if we do not image perfection as the way to go?
The image of Christ as perfect God and perfect man [sic.]as the image I am to live up to is too much. Jesus was as human as each of us is. If he wasn’t, there is no reason to understand the Incarnation. But was he perfect? I doubt it. The Greek word for perfect that has come down to us is not a good translation of the Hebrew word that best translates how Jesus understood that "Be ye perfect as the Father is perfect," really meant 'whole or complete or balanced.' But are we to do tap dances around those difficult texts in Scripture where Jesus doesn’t come across in a good light? (the Canaanite woman with the sick daughter, the cursing of the fig tree, the ignoring of his own family) Or do we see Jesus as capable of growth as we?
I struggle with Scripture, theology and pastoral relationships with those I know on line. I have had some wonderful conversations with people over the years that have called me to become closer to Christ, demand more of myself as a friend, reach farther into what love calls me than if I merely read books or meditated on holy things. It has often been the sharp dig on Facebook that reminds me of my frailty. And I am surprised into working on a specific previously-ignored musty corner of my reality. But the intimacy that I have developed with friends on line always provoke a longing to know them in the flesh. I have traveled inordinate distances and welcomed those from afar to make that human connection that has begun on line. The friendship of the internet calls me from the keyboard to the incarnate.
Yesterday I met with old friends who were very influential at the beginning of my priestly career. I hadn't seen them in years and it was such a comfort that we have not grown apart. We have had some similar incidents in our intervening years, and we are all a bit battered around the edges, but is was like a piece of old fine furniture--the patina was glowing and spoke of good use. I think that is how friendship in Christ makes us.
What is the Church for the future? Will faith be an on line affair? Will we be property-less and discreet communities carrying on our faith without the gathering for liturgy? I doubt it. Just as the on line meetings call for our finest thought, liturgy brings us together for the finest of our encounter as human beings. It is in the liturgy that we live out the stories of Christ. It is there that we bring 'skin' to myths of our faith and forms the patina of our lives. It is where we are polished by the love of Creator and created. Alleluia Christ is Risen.