What place does MOVEMENT play in organic spirituality, community, and movements?

I stumbled upon an interesting quote I don’t recall reading before from Blaise Pascal – either that or I’m more keenly aware of the profundity of it 20 some years later:

“Our nature consists in movement; absolute rest is death.”

We know not much about the context of this since he often wrote isolated aphorisms like these. But this is an especially interesting quote if we consider both the physical and life sciences. Biology tells us that something at absolute rest is no longer reproducing and actively doing what it is meant to do. Absolute rest is stasis in an absolutely unhealthy way; it has crossed over into death. That’s what life science teaches us about absolute rest. Physical science tells us in Newton’s First Law of Thermodynamics that since energy and matter can neither be created nor destroyed, a body in motion will stay in motion unless an outside force acts upon it, and an object at rest will stay at rest unless an outside force acts on it. This has usually been applied to explain the impact of friction or gravity on a moving object; by outside forces like both friction and gravity an object thrown in the air will fall to rest (gravity) or stop sliding down a table and come to a halt (friction).  But if we were to expand the scope of this principle, then it has even greater explanatory use for us.

What if “absolute rest” was a spiritual, compromised condition brought on by sustained disobedience over time?  A state of systemic unresponsiveness to outside stimulus? To borrow from biology, what if it meant that we were no longer vital and reproducing good DNA on the micro level (living cells and tissue) to the macro level (entire offspring and their offspring)?  No longer performing necessary vital functions that truly spiritually alive people do? And in so doing, we are functionally flatlined — spiritual zombies of sorts?  To borrow from physics, what if absolute rest means we no longer capable of responding to external stimuli? A state of absolute dormancy where we are systemically unresponsive to Jesus as an outside force?  We hear spirit words and experience true light, but we are so deadened in our soul (reason, will, and emotions) that we remain unmoved.  It’s worse than what some would describe as “coasting” because coasting assumes some degree of residual momentum, even if it is coming to a stop soon.  If we are at absolute rest, we have not been moving, are not moving, and are incapable of being moved.  And that is a very dangerous and undesirable place to be.  Being outside of the will of God always is dangerous and undesirable.

Absolute rest for the Christian life is that place of habitual compromise where we have fully chosen the kingdom of self over the Kingdom of God; it is the dull and uninteresting life chosen time and time again such that we no longer pay heed to the moving of God in our lives, no longer try, no longer listen, and no longer care.  We will likely all differ on determining when a person we know is at absolute rest on a spiritual level.  That’s ok if we differ; it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  It just means that we have to subjectively make a call that, perhaps, only God sees most clearly. But I think we can agree that there is such a thing.  If we admit this much and are in the business of multiplication and the discipling of others, then we will care about the prevention — or perhaps better, the inoculation of our disciples against this terrible fate.  Or to put it another way, if we care about making strong and beautiful disciples that will last — disciples who are different enough to make a Kingdom difference in a different world [as our movement here calls it] — then we will care about the kind of DNA we instill or spiritual practices we teach our sons and daughters.

Found in Pascal’s quote is a clue, I believe, to what he likely thought we should instill or teach: MOVEMENT.  “Our nature consists in movement; absolute rest is death.”  What exactly is movement? Whatever it is, it is natural to us.  It is part of God’s original and natural design for humanity according to the Creation/Creative Mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” and “fill the earth.”  Movement is not a haphazard activity, let alone a mere activity.  It is an orientation whereby we are connected to God and His redemptive purpose for the world; it is an agile state of being on-the-go for the purpose of multiplication (summary word for fruit-bearing and filling God’s planet with His rule and His people) — that translates into real time action.  Our feet are to the ground, our brain is telling the body where to go, our heart is pumping blood, and it all translates into step-by-step motion: MOVEMENT.  We are reproducing the thoughts, the values, the rules, the culture, the goods, and the people of God everywhere we go.  We are not behind the desk or computer, thinking or writing about it; we are not sitting on the chair in contemplation of its contours; we are not sipping coffee and deep in discussion of theories and ideas with others.  WE ARE DOING THE WORK of our King in real time and space.  What is conceived in heaven is being reproduced on earth.

This is not to be confused with hyperactivity whose opposite is “stillness” or “waiting on God.”  It is not harp and bowl, stillness before God where we spend days, weeks, months, and even years in Kansas City or Redding in prayer with God.  There is a time and place for that — but not an extended and conventional time that becomes daily life. That kind of spirituality is not in concert with the teaching of Scripture and the trajectory of Jesus’s life.  How can I say that?   Because that kind of activity is not incarnational; it is pre-Christmas Jesus.  Jesus modeled the enfleshing, the inhabiting of a dirty and undeserving world that was crying out for mercy and real life.   The very incarnation of Jesus models the kind of movement of which we speak: enter time and space — even if it’s a stable, position yourself in poverty and presence yourself among people.  If Jesus does not inhabit and go (if he has no movement and simply stays in God’s presence in prayer in the heavenlies), then we have no cross, have no hope, have no life.  Jesus is about MOVEMENT into the margins of life, and he models this centrifugal dispersing into the world.  The centripetal pull inwards towards Jerusalem where the presence of God was localized in a central temple is a THING OF THE PAST that was never meant to be permanent, much less operative for the people of God.  Now, it is God tabernacling in us AS WE GO.  The presence and word become flesh; it is redemptive MOVEMENT outwards into the rest of the planet that God is going to redeem into a new heavens and new earth. So the world-allergic, hard work-allergic spirituality of harp and bowl has no place in New Testament life.

Those days of temple imagery and spirituality are LONG over.  Jesus teaches us a new way.  But we, like Jonah did in the belly of the whale, insist on being in the presence of God while He has commanded us to go and multiply His empire amongst people out there.  Take another look at the religious platitudes and Psalm quotations that Jonah heaps up to God while in the dark of the whale.  They all have to do with temple presence and sacrifices and praising God’s name.  But the simple fact remains: God told Jonah to go (movement), and he said no (rest).  He is hiding behind empty and religious practices to mask the fact that He does not care about the Ninevites like God does.  How does God respond? No words to those religious platitudes; He vomits Jonah on the beach and repeats the command.  The vomiting is the signal of what God thinks of that non-movement speak.

MOVEMENT requires that purposeful action that is in concert to God’s creation mandate that is reshaped through the Great Commission: multiply — expand the rule of Christ and do what it takes enflesh the message itself.  This may sound difficult when we consider the religious rituals and practices we’ve constructed that may play marginal parts in God’s mission, but Pascal reminds us of the Genesis mandate: it’s in our very nature.  And so it will be natural, should we tap into the organic nature of God and his rhythms.

 

 

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