One Church, Two Locations

East Campus & Offices
2915 Wright Avenue
Racine, WI 53405
​Wednesday: Traditional at 2:00 PM
Sunday: Traditional at 9:00 AM

West Campus
8700 Durand Avenue, Suite 400
Sturtevant, WI 53177
Sunday: Contemporary 10:30 AM

The Unexplainable – the Divine – the Magic…

Years ago, while I was still in the Army, I remember one morning where I was walking across a field with 2 other Chaplains.  We were heading to an area to be with some Officer Candidates.  On the way, one of us brought up the movie “Phenomenon”.  The movie had just come out. 

It starred John Travolta who played a guy in a small town, who – one quiet night – gets hit by some form of energy, like lightning, or something like that.  Turns out, this gives him some special powers.  The movie follows him as he discovers what he’s able to do with these powers… and how they change him in the process.   He’s able to move things with his mind, he finds a lost child (and is able to feel what the child feels), and some other things that really defy explanation.  

In fact, they do try to “explain” it.  Scientists get involved – of course.  They test him, poke and prod him.  They still can’t really explain it, but in the process the do find something… possibly the source of his “powers”.   Turns out he has a brain tumor – a malignant, inoperable, and deadly tumor.  

So there we were talking about the movie, and one of the other Chaplains said something that has bothered me ever since.   He said (referring the “miraculous” gifts Travolta’s character had) “Too bad it was just a tumor.”   As if, his gift would have been more legitimate if it had some unexplainable, mysterious, unverifiable source.  As if the brain tumor took away the “Magic”

I asked why the “explanation” would diminish the Magic?  In my mind it was still there!  

The Unexplainable – the Divine – the Magic…

This is often how we want to see “religion”, particularly our own religion… whatever that happens to be.

The first time I recognized this was back in 1993.  We were living in El Paso, Texas, and going to a Lutheran church there.   I remember one conversation a group of us were having a conversation, and one of the women in the group (who came from a non-denominational background) said she didn’t believe in (her words) Man-made religion.

I get what she was trying to say:  That if religion was created by humans, if it is a “product” of the human mind and experience, then somehow it’s less special, somehow no longer part of the Mystery of the Divine.  If religion comes from something as banal as the human experience, then there’s the fear it could lose its magic. 

When I read the part in the Book of Exodus where Moses returns off the mountain after having had that powerful and dramatic time with God.  Moses returns and sees that the people have cast a golden calf and “created” their own god.  And of course this was a bad thing!  Moses (and God) condemns this fundamentally human-created religion.  

This is sometimes how we often think of religion – to be “real”, “official”, and legitimate, it must come from extra-human sources.  It must come to us unencumbered by the trappings of human origin. 

Think of any religion out there, and think of their “origin” story… of where that tradition comes from:

  • From somewhere out in the Universe (like the plaids for some of the Aboriginal peoples in Australia, or from the star Sirius where the Dogon people of North Africa claim to come from)
  • From angels – like claim the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
  • Or from the mists of time, like the indigenous peoples of Northern Europe, perhaps the Hindu tradition, etc.

How many trace their start to “other than human” sources?  I’d say, probably most if not all.  And yet…

What would I say today to that lady from my church back in Texas so many years ago?   “I hate to break it to you, but EVERY religion is made by human hands!   Every one of them comes from human origin.  And yet there STILL can be magic!

Here’s the thing, experiences of the Sacred, of God, of “the Holy”, is ALWAYS mediated through the human experience.   Think about it… what other way do we humans have to experience, to make sense of, to process, to experience the Sacred  except  through our human-ness?   There is no other way!  Whether we perceive the Holy through visions, feelings, quiet time, intuitive gleanings, music, individual or collective experiences… these are always mediated and interpreted through our 5 physical senses and/or our emotional, psychological, and spiritual senses… and they’re all part of what makes us human!     We have no other way to do this except through our human-ness. We have no other way.     

I often hear people say something like, “I’m only human” as a means to justify our weaknesses, our less-than noble selves.  This diminishes what it means to be human.  It lessens the miracle of humanity. 

But those people we look up to, those Saints in our lives – whether living or dead, know to the world or known only to us – those people that make a difference, those that change the world (or just their small part of it) for the better… they also are “only human”.    And they remind us that “being human” can indeed be a noble, holy thing!      

The way we experience the transcendant… through our human sources of perceptions

The way we make sense of the trascendant… through our human sources of perception

The way we find to give meaning to the transcendant in our lives… we do this through our human-ness.

We have no other way. 

“Religion” as such… is up to us!  In its healthiest sense, it calls us to elevate what it means to be human. 

It’s up to us to see if what we put together can raise our sights… to see a higher path…

It’s up to us to see if what we say we believe calls from us our highest, most noble, most authentic selves…

It’s up to us – through our religion – to find ways to identify – and live up to the – the highest ideals of expressing love, of respecting human dignity…

It’s up to us – through our religion – to address – as best as we’re able – as best as we’re able – the deepest message of peace, of tolerance, of acceptance…

…in the name of a transcendant God.      

Even if religion is a human construct… the “magic” (in the best sense of the word, in the most awe-inspiring sense) that we as humans look for… long for… still exists!

We are in charge of expressing, of creating, the deepest, most noble purpose of religion.  This religion can still call us to awaken the deeper possibilities of the best of humanity, raising our sights to the higher virtues of human-ness.  This religion can still open us to the “magic”… that deepest magic of life, that “magic” of the divine in and through us!

And we can do this   by being open to the movement of the Spirit.  We can make the choice… to set the stage for that Sacred Magic to move us… to help us move the world in the name of an indeed living God.     

We are drawn into this life-giving “magic”  through our senses – the physical, the emotional, the psychological and spiritual… drawn in, to raise not only our sights – but also our human-ness – to the stars – to the heights of life!   

We are drawn into this “magic” to bring out the very best of who we are… in what we can be and do… because the Spirit of God is there with us… as we investigate our Human-ness in the best ways!

Amen!    Amen!