On “losing the plot”
“He’s totally lost the plot.”
That would be the way that my British friends would describe someone who has lost touch with reality, gone a tad irrational, or perhaps (more seriously) is suffering a significant mental health breakdown.
And it’s an incredibly apt way to put it.
When you “lose the plot,” you find yourself disoriented, confused, and undoubtedly anxious, because you can’t quite put it all together. The story of your life has lost its sense of meaning, direction and hope.
It is no wonder, then, that much of what we do in personal psychotherapy is deep plot restoration. Something is amiss. The story isn’t making sense. You’ve hit a dead end. Your story has reached an impasse, a plot conflict, and you can’t find a way to resolution.
Or maybe the story has a plot that no longer rings true. Maybe there were past moments of plot tension, betrayal, trauma and perhaps abuse that make it impossible to find a new plot, a new narrative meaning to your life.
Well, that’s when we are on the precipice of “losing the plot.”
When Paul was writing to the young Christian community in Colossae, he was worried that they might lose the plot.
And well might he have worried. They were so young in their Christian faith that they didn’t yet have very deep roots in the story of Jesus. This was a plot under constant threat.
So the apostle writes to encourage their faith and to warn them.
With a sense of parental affection and protection he wants to secure them against stories, worldviews and ideologies that would strip them of their identity in Christ, rob them of their freedom in Christ, and take them captive to visions that look good, but are a sham.
In a phrase, he doesn’t want them “to lose the plot.”
And the best way not “to lose the plot” is by finding your life ever more deeply embedded in the plot-structure of the story of Jesus.
That’s why, in Colossians 2 and the beginning of chapter 3, with the repetition of the phrase “in him,” Paul persistently identifies the story of Jesus as the story of these Colossian Christians.
In him you have died.
In him you have been buried.
In him you have been raised.
So set your minds on the one who sits at the right hand of God in heaven.
For when he is revealed, so also will you be revealed.
There it is.
The basic plot line of the life of Jesus:
Or as we so often say together in the Eucharist,
Christ has died,
Christ has risen,
Christ will come again.
And Paul is saying that the story of Jesus, is the story of his followers.
What happened to Jesus, happens to us.
Paul writes a letter to this community so they will understand the plot, and not lose it.
That’s really why we gather on Tuesday mornings as well.
Most of us have felt, at one time or another, like we are losing the plot.
We’ve had these painful experiences of our story coming apart.
And often enough, it has been a story about Jesus, or at least a particular telling of that story, a particular way in which that story has been taken up in destructive ways, that has so deeply bruised us.
So we gather at a table of remembrance. We tell the story anew, listening for a plot that sets us free, rather than holds us captive. We sing that story as a liberation song. We are invited into the story of Jesus as a healing story, a story of deep forgiveness, a story that has a plot that goes beyond death to resurrection.
We come together, dear friends, so that we don’t lose the plot.
We come together, beloved siblings, as if our life depends on this story.
And it does.
This week at Wine Before Breakfast: Colossians 2.16-3.4:
Beth Carlson Malena will be preaching. She knows something about finding ourselves in the story of Jesus.
Luke McRae will set the table and Andrew Asbil will serve the meal of remembrance.
Kiegan Irish has crafted our prayers.
Amanda Jagt has curated our worship.
And Deb Whalen and the bandhood are mixing up some Laura Marling, Curtis Mayfield, a little gospel and some classic hymns to help us find the plot anew, in case we were losing it.
And remember, friends, WBB is called to be a community of hospitality. So if you’ve got some friends looking for a plot to make sense out of their lives, invite them to our story-telling gathering on an early Tuesday morning.
“If America does not use her vast resources of wealth to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life, she too will go to hell.”
So said Martin Luther King Jr. two weeks before his assassination.
America will go to hell.
A society without economic justice,
a society in which wealth is concentrated in a very few,
leaving very many in abject poverty,
is a society on the way to hell.
Of course, that kind of rhetoric could be dismissed
as pernicious nonsense of an envious underclass,
or as a seditious threat that should be annihilated.
America answered that question within two weeks.
Jesus once said, “be on guard against all kinds of greed;
for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possession.”
Pernicious nonsense or seditious threat?
Well, they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.
But here’s the thing,
the overwhelming weight of biblical witness,
the compellingly consistent economic vision of the bible,
stands with Martin and Jesus
in its pernicious nonsense and seditious threat.
The accumulation of wealth,
the hoarding of possessions,
the expropriation of land,
the opulence of affluence,
the fetish with prosperity,
is all, from a biblical perspective,
“Woe to you,” wrote ancient Isaiah,
“who join house to house,
who add field to field,
until there is room for no one but you ….”
In other words,
woe to you who engage in straight up,
everyday, normal, and acceptable
Or more pointedly,
woe to you who are successful at prosperity,
woe to you who achieve such wealth,
and woe to you who gain power by means of such wealth.
Or perhaps more offensively,
to hell with you!
Do I need to spell it out?
But let it be said that to have this week begin
with Martin Luther King Jr. Day
and end with the inauguration of Donald J. Trump
is a sadly tragic irony.
Worship is all about remembering and re-storying.
That which is disparate and often discordant is brought together.
That which is dismembered is re-membered anew.
Broken and painful memories that paralyze
are offered an alternative memory that liberates.
A re-narrating of our lives when we’ve lost the plot.
Going deeper into an old story that maybe has lost its freshness.
Entering into a story anew, indwelling that story,
to get our bearings, a reorientation to discern that path forward.
That’s what Wine Before Breakfast is all about.
And that is what we’ve been doing this year with
some explicit intentionality.
Last semester we began to tell the story:
of a good creation gone wrong,
of a creature made in the image of God,
of a covenant to restore all things,
of a God who liberates and is always in the fray,
of a path of life rooted in justice,
of the dynamics of empire and power,
of a servant who does not break bruised reeds.
And this semester we continue to the story:
of the path towards exile,
of a radical hope beyond exile,
of dramatic plot resolution in Jesus,
of an imperial crucifixion that turns everything on its head,
of the bursting of life out of death,
of the reconciliation of all things,
of being clothed in Christ.
The story continues.
The story of the world.
Maybe you’re not sure that this is your story.
Maybe you know that this is your story, but you are confused.
Maybe you know that this is your story, and you love to go deeper.
Wherever you are in the story, come.
Unsure, confused, or longing for depth, come.
There can’t be much re-membering without the members.
There can’t be much re-storying without all of our stories.
Beginning Sept 13, 2016, WBB is a weekly early morning Eucharist service, Tuesdays @ 7:22 a.m. in the Wycliffe College chapel. Rich liturgy, creative music, provocative preaching and the celebration of communion followed by a breakfast of home baking, preserves, juice and organic fair traded coffee in the campus ministry office.
– Contact Brian Walsh for more information, or to get on the email list
– Visit the WBB Facebook page
Beginning Sept 8, 2016, GCF is a community of people who meet for food, reflection, and mutual encouragement, Thursdays @ 6:00 p.m. in the CRC campus ministry office at Wycliffe College. We eat together, pray and read scripture, listen to each others’ stories, hear guest speakers, and engage in wide-ranging and deeply probing conversations.
– Contact Geoff Wichert for more information, or to get on the email list
– Visit the GCF Facebook page
Any of our staff team would be happy to meet with you individually to discuss personal concerns or issues that you are dealing with. Contact any of us via email to arrange a time for a confidential conversation.
The story was going a certain way.
Sure, there were some detours along the way
and things didn’t always go totally as expected,
but the overall plot remained clear.
It was all about home.
It was all about being in exile from home
and longing for a return home.
Truth is, everything is about home.
Really, when it comes right down to it, what else is there?
And if it is about home, then it is, of necessity about story.
Stories that tell us the memories of home.
Stories that shape the contours of home.
Stories that will lead us home.
But sometimes these stories meet a dead end.
In what is undoubtedly his most oft-quoted statement, Alasdair MacIntyre once said,
“I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do’ if I can answer the prior question, ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’”
Paul has just spent eleven chapters addressing the prior question of what story or stories his Roman hearers find themselves in.
And it really is a matter of plural stories.
They find themselves a part of a Roman story rooted in imperial myths.
This is a story of conquest and the gods;
of imperial justice and the Pax Romana;
of Caesar and the pater familias.
And they find themselves grafted in to a Jewish story of a crucified Messiah.
This is a story of covenant and the God of Israel;
of righteousness and shalom,
of Jesus and a Father who keeps his promises.