As we do most every Tuesday night, Jennifer and I welcomed a less-than-a-dozen-but-sometimes-more friends over to share time in the Bible, prayer, and (hopefully) loving community together. I was surrounded by friends, some of whom are nearly kin, and some of whom I don’t know quite as well yet. As I sat among a bunch of twenty-somethings discussing a nearly 2,700 year old text (Isaiah 46-47) with honesty and humility, I felt great gratitude and love for these folks. We weren’t just examining the text–we were allowing it to examine us (as our very own Ray Sikes has put it).
We feel most connected, I think, when we gather around something outside ourselves that bears upon us all…We let this thing speak to us authoritatively. Shared beliefs, shared enjoyment, shared catharsis, shared experience–these are all the more potent than their solitary counterparts. We turn to one another, saying, “I see it too,” “I get that,” “That’s true, isn’t it?” It might be surprising that a bunch of post-college twenty-somethings are gathering around the idea that “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son [Jesus]” (Hebrews 1:1-2a), but so it is.
Maybe when we realize that non-religious folks themselves are also gathering around unprovable views of ultimate reality that are not entirely self-evident…it doesn’t seem as strange, perhaps, that we gather around to listen to our ancient brother Isaiah reveal God to us. I am likely oversimplifying the analogy here, but we all gotta serve somebody, as Bob Dylan put it, and Isaiah is likewise reiterating again–and again, and again–how apt we are to gather around something as if it were god, as if it could give us meaning, as if it could save us. We gather around a God who is so unlike us and is not a prisoner of His own universe or our own feelings at any moment. As we do, I feel a deep bond with these friends forming, bringing us further in than we’d be if we remained bound to our autonomy and personal opinions.