Read Hebrews 12:18-24
We love spectacle. Bright lights, vibrant sounds, strong emotions, velocity, action. I remember my first visit to a carnival: the speed of the rides, the noise and rush of the music, the voices calling out for our attention, the bitter-sweet taste of the candied apples. And I remember seeing Niagara Falls for the first time: the overwhelming flow of water cascading over the cliffs, the deafening roar of the water as it plummeted down to what seemed a huge cauldron of swirling whitecaps and mist. Yes, we love spectacle.
And we seek it out. We want our parties to be bold, brash and boisterous. We want our movies to be loud and lively. We want our cars to shine, our gardens to glisten, our clothes to flash. Our civilization seems to be built on spectacle. We seem to come alive when our senses our overwhelmed, overcharged and bedazzled.
Yet, the most important things in life seem to be the quietest and humblest of all. We can be touched — more deeply than we care to admit — by a sleeping baby, by a starry night, by a quiet lake. In the simplicity of a touch, the depth of love can be shared. A simple rose can best express sympathy in face of tragedy. A song by a campfire can make us touch eternity.
Spectacle pulls us away from ourselves. It seems as if the sounds and sights and tastes and sensations, as they rush in on us, need to make space for themselves within us... and they do this by shoving and casting aside the core of who we are. We are not only invaded by the spectacle, we lose ourselves in it. We cease to be. Only the spectacle remains.
Perhaps this is why we love spectacle so much: we are not aware of the awesome mystery that abides within our very selves. We do not mind losing the core of who we are, for we do not know the value of that core, what the ancients called the “soul.”
Yet, is it not from the soul that love arises, that thought is shaped, that imagination takes flight? And is it not in the soul that we encounter, not only ourselves, but the God who shaped us and gave us life?
In today’s lesson, the author of the letter to the Hebrews recognizes that, in coming to know God in Jesus Christ, there is not much that is spectacular. No fiery mountain or violent storm or vibrant music, no voice to make us shudder and tremble. There is only the silence of the Cross on a lonely hill on a Friday afternoon. There is only the quietness of an empty tomb. There is only the fleeting breeze of the Spirit’s presence.
And yet, as we learn to tear ourselves from our need of the spectacular and come to accept the mystery of our souls, we move towards a reality even more awesome than anything we could ever imagine: millions of angels in celebration, an immense crowd of witnesses, the souls of all the just. We move towards the God who gave us life, and the Christ who led us into that life. And what is most astounding, we find our very selves.