The terrifying beauty of the unknown | April 13-19, 2022

I recently announced that I will resign from the church I founded 12 years ago. I am apparently part of the Great Resignations, the massive wave of people leaving their jobs right now in our country. But unlike most people in this movement, I really love my job. I find my work meaningful and fun. Instead, I’m leaving for the seemingly ridiculous reason that I feel uncomfortable being too comfortable.

Now, let me be clear that I am not talking about convenience in meeting my basic needs. I’m talking about comfort in the realm of spirituality.

While many churches actively seek to sweeten people by providing theological answers that make their members feel safe and righteous in the face of life’s uncertainties and riddles (and often tacitly blessing the political status quo as they do), my church is entrenched. in the practices of mystical spirituality and radical activism. For both of these practices, risk is an essential ingredient. Mysticism consists in plunging courageously into the bottomless ocean of mystery which we call “God” or “Ultimate Reality” or “All”. Radical activism is about freeing our minds from the propaganda of the ruling class and fixing their usually superior firepower, with the odds stacked against us. So when things get too comfortable for me, I feel invited to once again take a leap into the terrifying beauty of the unknown.

Spirituality is like romance in this way; both are matters of the heart. New relationships are full of uncertainty (they’re exciting!) And low in confidence (they’re unnerving!). Long-term relationships are typically high in security (they are safe) and low in uncertainty (they are predictable). The weak point of an intense romance comes when there is enough confidence that there is trust and grounding, but there is enough uncertainty to be exciting and inspiring.

The inner life also thrives at the intersection of mystery and trust. The Celtic Christian mystic John Phillip Newell says: “What cannot be said is always greater than what can be said.” When our responses are too firm, when our actions are too sure, I think we begin to lose the sharpness of our souls.

In the Western church calendar, next Sunday is Easter. In the oldest biblical account of Easter, which comes from the Book of Mark, the story of the two women who find Jesus’ empty tomb ends abruptly and full of uncertainty.

The final line is: “They got out in haste and fled from the tomb; for they trembled and marveled: neither of them said anything to anyone; because they were afraid ». This shocking miracle story ends without explanation, interpretation or closure. In doing so, the story invites us to continue it for ourselves, with our imagination, our life, our questions and our discomfort. As Easter approaches, may you be blessed with the opportunity to embrace the uncertainties of your life with trust, community and courage.

Rev. John Helmiere is a co-summoner of Valley & Mountain in South Seattle.

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