Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Losing Mystery

One of my favorite shows that I am watching regularly is Curse of Oak Island. It is a reality show (which really isn't my style of show) about 2 brothers on a quest to discover the secret (treasure) of Oak Island.

If you are not aware of Oak Island, then allow me to give you a brief history. Near Nova Scotia, there is a small island. About 220 years ago, a treasure hunt began on that island. Some boys found a depression in the ground at the base of a tree. From one of the branches, right above the depression, there was a ship's tackle block. It seemed that something may be buried under the surface of that depression. Digging began not long after. And has continued until this day. The Money Pit of Oak Island has been the focus of excavations, treasure tales, and conspiracy theories ever since.

I fell in love with the mystery of Oak Island when I read about it in a Reader's Digest collection of stories titled Strange Stories, Amazing Facts. I loved the mystery of it. If fact, this may have begun my fascination with treasure hunting and stories of buried treasure. It was thrilling to think that buried on this island could be a pirate treasure that was beyond imagination.

When the series began on History Channel, I was hooked from the opening credits. Rick and Mary Lagina had the same passion for the mystery as I experience. They followed through on their passion with the financial resources to make a serious attempt to discover the treasure of Oak Island. Along the way, they have sought out the rumors and legends that have grown outward from the original story of a buried treasure. The series moves back and forth between the work of digging and exploring the sites around Oak Island and tracing leads from rumor or legend. They are now in the fourth season of the series.

Typically I watch a recorded episode. It allows me to catch 2 or 3 episodes at a time. I watch it because it fascinates me. I still want them to discover a treasure. But I realized last night that Oak Island was no longer this mysterious place of legends. The mystery is gone.

I was a little sad at this prospect. This is something that I have loved for most of my life. That book, which I still own, was brought into my life in 1980. For 36 years, I have been enthralled with the story of Oak Island. But watching the effort to uncover its secrets has removed the thrall. I see it as something less engaging.

And I have to wonder: do Christians feel that way about faith?

Christianity is a faith of passion. Lively faith relies on a sense of mystery so that we want to pursue the God who first loved us. But I don't perceive a sense of mystery in many Christian conversations. I sense that people want the answers. They want it spelled out. They are not content with the gap of faith and want solid ground upon which to journey.

Where is the mystery in our churches? And greater than that, where is the wonder? The amazement? The awe?

Oak Island may not have a treasure. The more I watch the show, the more I believe that there is nothing there.

And I watch as our worship services decline across America. I had two conversations with two separate people miles apart where this was expressed: we want to do something but we don't want it to be just a Bible study. My own experience is that Bible study is not worth the time or effort to do because people do not seem interested. Prayer services are hard to find unless there has been a tragedy and people feel the need to be together.

Worship, Bible, and Prayer are all mysterious, wonder full, amazing, and awe inspiring. But most of our churches are experiencing the decline of these. The church has lost its sense of mystery.

Faith is still present, but I wonder if it is a faith with a healthy dose of mystery or just resigned to not having the answers it wants. I wonder if faith is trusting in the unknowable questions or blindly following rhetoric and mantra. There is a vast difference between those perspectives. And for a thriving church or faith, I believe we need mystery.