I went to see the late show of the new Harry Potter movie last night (getting out of the movie and arriving home far later than is usual for me: actually quite a treat!) I went with some very dear and wonderful people, having a late dinner (at least for me) prior to joining the craziness of the "line for a seat" which is different from the line for a ticket. The whole evening was a memorable, enjoyable and fun time.
Now I am a HP fan, having read all the books (more than once) and having seen all the movies on or near their release dates. It is an amazing franchise and yet, during the two and a half hour saga of Part I of the final chapter of this epic story, there was a tremendous amount of information that was presumed to be understood by the director and script adapters. If I had not been quite familiar with the last book (and the preceding ones as well) I would have been pretty lost in the story (although I probably would have enjoyed the picture just for its cinematography and special effects.)
And I cannot help but wonder this morning if we, as members of "church-land", do not too often do a similar thing: presume people have knowledge and understand the back story to that which we are involved. Take for example our Gospel reading from Luke today where we have Jesus comparing the haughtie-taughtie, self-centered and obnoxious Pharisee and the repentant tax collector. The message of Jesus' parable can be simple and direct if we take these verses on their own, and perhaps that is sufficient for a time. The clarity of understanding changes when we look at the broad scope of the Chapter we are reading and becomes even more rich when we take a further step back and look at the section Luke has put together. That understanding can become mind-blowing when we look at the bigger arc of the entirety of the Gospel.
The Episcopal Church can, and does, do a good job offering information and teachings about the back-story and the over-all story about which we have centered our lives. We can pace ourselves in our learnings, but learn we are called to do.....teach we are called to do. No matter how much we think we know, there is always something further on which to reflect. We never want to be like that self-important Pharisee in today's Gospel, but rather like the tax collector who knows this ongoing conversation with God that is scripture-study, is just that, a conversation with God, who opens deeper understandings as we let go of what we presume to know, and thereby learn new things.
We should always remember, and be humbled by, this conversation with God never presuming that we know all there is to know. Never presuming that everyone knows what we know. But instead always being open to new knowledge that is revealed to us as we do that necessary work of talking about Scripture, being open to God's presence, guidance and loving nudge toward the uncomfortable.
Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.