How Big is Your Elephant?

This is posted because Paulfg made me think of it this morning, even though it was originally posted in The Postmodern Mystic on New Year’s Eve… 2012! Lol. Enjoy, Paul… and all others!

ELEPHANT AND THE BLIND MEN

Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”
They had no idea what an elephant was. They said, “What’s an elephant?” and decided, “Even though we will not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was. Every one of them touched the elephant.
“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.
“Oh, no! it is a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.
“Oh, no! it is a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.
“It is a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.
“It is a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.
“It is a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.
They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated.
A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree on what an elephant is.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched only part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said, but is yet much more.”
“Oh!” everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.
.
12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. [1 Corinthians 13]
My little perspective and experience of my Infinite Elephant is far too small and limited to argue with anyone else’s. How’s yours?
Grace to you, Gentle Reader.
Little Monk

Prelude and Fugue in Family Major

To what shall I liken the Kingdom?

Well, sometimes it’s like a family of singers who perform a fugue… where one voice begins with a simple melodic theme, and one by one others chime in with variations on that theme, differences, harmonies, counterpoints, echoes, dissonances, only to see the piece climax with grand chords of resolution yielding greater light and beauty in their combination, than in the sum of the parts!

People with preternatural gifts in music (like Beethoven, Mozart, Bill & Gloria Gaither, or Bach) sometimes wrote (or write) such things.

Yesterday, I got to see this happen in “real time” here on Church Set Free.

We talk about diversity. We talk about difference. We talk about the Holy Spirit’s freedom to express His Truth to us in various ways and languages, and our individual histories and temperaments coloring our experience of His presence and inspiration. We talk about refraining from telling one another what to believe, but rather encouraging one another in exploring and embracing the relationships we have with Him and with one another. We encourage dialogue, discourse, and collaborative exploration of what it is to live in and as the Family of God in His Kingdom. We talk about the difference between “unanimity” and “lock-step Christianity”, and the diversity of thought and experiences we see reflected in scripture and the life and encounters of Jesus.

It can be easy just to talk about such things.

It can be easy to encourage the Church to be Set Free enough to embrace diversity of background, ponderings, viewpoints, traditions, and even opinions… without judgment, condemnation, or disrespect.

But when we meet together, these writers in/of Church Set Free, I am often a voice heard to repeat… “The Medium is the Message”. God is doing this really cool “experiment” thing, where we ourselves as a group are apparently not only called to “talk about” these topics, offer our own experiences, advice, learning, to encourage others… but to “experience” them, learn more about these principles, model them, and rejoice in our own growth here.

And yesterday, this incredible thing happened. One of us set out a viewpoint. (Soloed with an opening melodic theme). Another responded with a counterpoint. Another listened, wondered if there was dissonance, disharmony, and offered a further variation. The two initial singers then sang a duo for a bit, reaffirming harmony, establishing that while there may be some syncopation there, there was no atonal clash! It was just glorious!

(I missed the whole show onstage, as I was elsewhere doing otherwise at the time! Drat!)

But it was like being around the dining room table at supper, with the Father at one end, Jesus seated at the other, and watching lively discourse among brothers and sisters. At the close of the performance I was elated as I watched the transcript play out. Two things just filled me with joy, and today this post has just welled up within me.

Thing One:

The Brethren of Church Set Free do NOT have to sing in Unison. We can’t, to be perfectly frank. We come from traditions, lifestyles, histories, worship experiences that are vastly different. For us to agree on a “single melody line” would be for NONE of us to be genuine, authentic, transparent or sincere to one another or before you. We would have to put on a “One Size Fits All” suit, that either bagged some and pinched others, or had such flexibility and resilience that it accomplished nothing. Now, are there some points at which our voices unite? You bet! Like “Jesus is Lord!”, or “God is Love”, or “God loves first, and therefore sent His Son who lived, died, and rose again to live forever!” Lots and lots of themes we are in unison.

But in lots and lots of elements of playing out those themes, individually, relationally, corporately, practically… there’s diversity.

And yesterday, I got to hear this really cool little piece of “Chamber Worship”, where multiple voices cast light of differing perspectives and angles, on love in relationship in different ways.

That was AWESOME!

BUT!!!!! Thing Two:

JUST as awesome (maybe even more so), was watching those same brethren… as their melodic lines varied in volume and dynamics… step back a moment, draw breath, and consider the “meta-question” of… “Is my voice too strident? Is this harmony and counterpoint, or is this dissonance and division?”

THAT’s the REAL message (imho) that Church Set Free seeks to bring.

That as “Family” at the table, with God setting and heading the table, we can have lively animated discussion even of differing views, while still loving, embracing and glorifying. THAT was SO joyful and awesome to witness.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So…. bottom line here… what makes the difference between “division” or “dissonance”, and “diversity” or “difference”?

Um… gonna sound corny to say, perhaps… but the difference is the “relationship”. Relationship and the love with which we handle one another. Divisions and dissonance happen when the space between two persons becomes polarized into “winner/loser” or “right/wrong” or “better/worse”. When there is a breakdown, a failure, of the two elements of “respect” and “sacredness” of the other… there is now division and dissonance. When our eyes become focused on the “opponent”, and “defeating” him/her… as distinct from being focused on God, Truth, Jesus, Love and saying “hey, bro/sis, but what about this? or that? or this other?” (fill in the blank).

There’s a world of difference between saying, “I disagree with you, you’re wrong, and I shall fix that if you listen to me!”, and saying… “I see what you’re saying. But I see it differently. What if it’s more like… [whatever]?”

We never have lie and say we agree with something we don’t. We never have to lie and say something is right, when we have deep conviction that it is wrong. But we can always bear in mind that different people sometimes understand words in different ways, or have met situations that we have not, or have had experiences that express the grace of God in ways that we have not.

We never have to lie to honor God. We only have to love, to respect, and to treat the other as sacred.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Yup, I was a really happy camper yesterday, proud of my brothers/sisters as I watched God’s happy face nod between courses of the meal.

To what shall I liken the Kingdom? How about a dinner table where God is glorified and discussion is lively? This certainly works for me! The medium is the message. We are all projects in work. Welcome to Church Set Free!