Ruminating over this Sunday’s prescribed reading from Job 38, my mind harkens back to 2012, when I had the privilege of attending a series of lectures given by the great Phyllis Tickle who described the current reformation that the church is experiencing as part of a cultural phenomenon that happens about every 500 years, which she calls “The Great Emergence”. When asked what skills religious leaders will need to navigate the information age, Tickle insisted that the best advice we could give to anyone considering a religious vocation was that they should study physics. Inwardly I groaned, remembering my feeble attempts to come to grips with the most rudimentary theories of quantum physics. But I also nodded in agreement, knowing that so many of our religious narratives strive to make meaning of the cosmos as it was perceived by ancient minds. When our ancestors looked into the heavens they had no way of knowing the wonders of the cosmos that we are beginning to discover. While physicists can ignore theology, theologians who ignore physics will find themselves stuck atop Job’s dung-heap impotently shaking their fists at the Divine. Perhaps Tickle is correct and the clerics of the future will out of necessity need to be physicists. Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku speculates that the universe is “a symphony of strings” and the “mind of God would be cosmic music resonating through eleven dimensional hyper-space”. If you have the courage to climb down from the dung-heap, take a look at Michio Kaku’s “The Universe in a Nutshell”. If the Divine bollocking that Job endured makes you wonder if ignorance might just be bliss, then take a peek at “Is God a Mathematician?” or “The Mind of God”. Who knows, maybe if a few more of us dare to dwell in the questions we might just come up with imaginative narratives to help us fathom what it means to be human.
Phyllis Tickle is a treasure!!! Let her no-nonsense, down-to-earth, humorous way of articulating what should be obvious provide encouragement to the timid who sit quietly hoping that someone else will question the dogmas and doctrines that dull our senses. Let her questions inspire more questions and let set aside our carefully held notions of reality and embrace the awe and majesty of the Mystery we call God.
As the Roman Catholic Church prepares to elect a new pope, this presentation by Phyllis Tickle seems very timely. Tickle provides a history lesson which enlightens us on the marriage between the church and empire that gave birth to Western Christianity. Tickle is convinced that a whole new day is dawning in this post-Constantinian church that promises to seriously engage the 21st century.
Recorded on Feb. 26, 2013 at Calvary Episcopal Church in Memphis Tennessee during their annual Lenten Preaching Series.
During the season of Advent we approach the MYSTERY through story and song. Unable to fully express our deepest longings with words, we engage the stories handed down to us by our ancestors. Trusting these stories not as history but as truth. For as Marcus Borg teaches, these stories may not have actually happened this way, but they are always happening. Over and over again, we see ourselves and our longings for hope, peace, joy and love in the stories we tell during this season of desire. In the video below Phyllis Tickle tells the stories that speak of the longings and desires of our ancestors. Today, we would do well to remember the stories of old as precursors to the telling of our own stories of longing. For just as our ancestors had the wisdom to engage the MYSTERY with stories, we too know of our need to engage the MYSTERY with our stories. What stories are gestating within us? What stories will we give birth to this Advent.
Looking forward to lectures this weekend by Phyllis Tickle. For those of you who will not be able to make it to Trinity Anglican in Aurora, enjoy this video of Tickle doing what she does best, teaching.
In the gospel reading which will be read this Sunday in mainline congregations, the writer of the Gospel According to Mark puts words about the destruction of the Temple into the mouth of Jesus. I can’t help wondering, if we really are a people who believe in resurrection, why are we so reluctant to let our notions about “church” die. Surely, we have enough faith to open ourselves to what may emerge as the last rites are said over the church of bygone days.
The term Emergence Christianity names a conversation. One of the leading thinkers in this conversation is Phyllis Tickle. PHYLLIS TICKLE, founding editor of the Religion Department of PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, the international journal of the book industry, is frequently quoted in print sources like USA TODAY, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, NY TIMES as well as in electronic media like PBS, NPR, THE HALLMARK CHANNEL, and innumerable blogs and web sites. Tickle explores the contours of the current Emergence Christianity conversation.