The Space Between: A Rare McDermott Syzygy

Staff_McDermott, Tom“When people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them. All meeting is sacred space.”

— Martin Buber

Did you see the total lunar eclipse last week, October 8? For a short time, only the longest wavelengths of sunlight reached past the Earth creating a curious, red hue to the moon’s appearance. It is not a very common eclipse but definitely a memorable one to see.

Well, I personally think this Sunday will be one of those rare pastoral syzygies you don’t get to experience too often at First UMC. (I know you’re wondering, and I had to look it up myself: the word “syzygy” is the Greek term referring to eclipses — the pairing up of objects, yoked together, in symmetry.) Now, maybe you’ve noticed how two people who have been together a long time often reflect similar qualities, and have similar interests and ideas and values? Well, Linda and I, both on staff at FUMCFW, and both ordained United Methodist clergy, have decided to preach this Sunday on the same scripture text (Matt 22: 15-22), but are taking completely different approaches to its meaning.

This past week, I was privileged to attend a memorial service for one of our member’s brothers in the Chapel on Wednesday. Rev. Chuck Graff officiated the service and I listened to the man’s young adult daughters and son as they spoke deeply of their father’s humor, mischief and joy. Each vowed to more intentionally reflect his life of joy and mischief in their own day-to-day relationships. What resonated with me was that his daughter specifically used the word “reflect”, not “imitate”. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but I think it may also be the least authentic rendering of a life lived in relationship. And that is what struck me about our scripture verse for this Sunday. We often take this text to be about legalities and religious duty and stewardship, giving to Caesar and God what is theirs, respectively … all of it being God’s, ultimately. And while the Herodians and Pharisees may have been “busted” by Jesus’ action, as Linda suggested in her blog, he may not have been talking about property or taxes or possessions or rules at all.

Which brings me back to the rare syzygy this Sunday. I am certain Linda and I will reflect a little bit of each other in our words this Sunday. But what makes this Sunday a unique “viewing” opportunity is that we will be approaching the text from completely different angles (with very different conclusions). What may be even a little more curious is it appears we won’t have contradicted each other, either.

So, if you’re feeling highly committed to worship this Sunday, and a little curious about how one couple works out their theological relationship, you might actually visit both services — the sanctuary service at 9:30 and the eleven:eleven celebration (at 11:11). Or check out the one you can’t attend on the church web site afterward. Bring appropriate tools for viewing “homiletic syzygies” and some paper for noting contrasts or contradictions (or for doodling).

The music in both services will be outstanding. And you’ll have plenty of time to still catch the opening kick-off to the Cowboy game. So, hope to see you in one of the services Sunday!






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