Will I Be Invited to the Sound

This Sunday I will be preaching from the book of Jonah.  I am framing Jonah as a parable (nothing new I know) and I thought I would spend some time on the work of parables.  They perform upon us irritating, rubbing, smoothing, caressing.  Jonah eventually reveals the line that was at work upon him, “I know you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”  This line worked on Jonah to the point where he fled from God due to its implications.

The parabolic line at work in me is often “let those with ears hear.”  This line can almost drive me mad.  I went to fit it into a conceptual epistemology.  What is this line telling me about knowledge?  But it is not concerned with knowledge it is concerned with the ear, with sound, vibrations.  I recently purchased Sufjan Stevens’ Seven Swans.  The first track is All the trees of the field will clap their hands.

If I am alive this time next year
Will I have arrived in time to share?
Mine is about as good this far
I’m still applied to what you are
And I am joining all my thoughts to you
And I’m preparing every part for you

I heard from the trees a great parade
And I heard from the hills a band was made
Will I be invited to the sound?
Will I be a part of what you’ve made?
And I am throwing all my thoughts away
And I’m destroying every bet I’ve made
And I am joining all my thoughts to you
And I’m preparing every part for you

There is an engagement here, a wrestling with the possibility that despite all effort he might not be ‘invited to the sound.’  While I believe there are important expressions of knowledge that are equally available in accessible models of discourse I am troubled that there remains something, perhaps I should not even call this knowledge, that I may well not have access to at this time despite any efforts.

There is a recent trend in certain strands of contemporary theology to explore an out-of-control mode of theology.  This is rooted broadly in the traditions of Yoder and Hauerwas.  In as much as I resonate with these expressions a suspicion lingers that securing and controlling the discourse is rarely escaped.

And I am throwing all my thoughts away
And I’m destroying every bet I’ve made
And I am joining all my thoughts to you

There is at once a discarding and a returning to thought.  A throwing and a joining.

As I said this parabolic language haunts me.  I hope in turn it forms me.  There is something more than knowledge.  Knowledge is the product of structural process.  Knowledge is not bad.  But there is a sound.  Sound is not knowledge.  Sound is action, motion, presence, touch.  I think we have (well I have) yet to learn (or to learn again) what it means to receive.  I think there needs to be maintained not an absolute but a working and living distinction between knowledge on one hand and insight and imagination on the other.  They are of course not exclusive but neither are they identical.

And I’m preparing every part for you

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