This past week has been a
busy one.  One thought reoccurred

The power of mysteries.

It all started when a group
of friends celebrated a dear friend’s birthday.  The celebration stretched over three days on a farm.  During the second evening someone
introduced the game “polar bear”. 
It is a game wherein people have to figure out a riddle.  If you figure the game out, then you
become a polar bear.

Games like this have the
ability to pull people into a mystery and the struggle of figuring it out.  It also frustrates. If you’re out, then
you desperately want to be in. 
People who haven’t ‘figured it out’ try to pry the secrets from those
who have become polar bears.  Some
struggle till they figure it out. 
Others want the cheap answer.

Another game was introduced. It is called, “Snap’s the name of the game”. 
In this game two people sit opposite each other with a third person
relaying a message to one of the pairs. 
The third person whispers a name to one of the pairs and by using short
snaps the name is relayed.  It is
amazing to watch – kind of freaky. 
The same dynamics apply to this game than the polar bear game.  People wrestle to get in, to find the answer.

So I did the
unforgiveable.  When I came home
from the weekend I searched Google to find the mystery behind the Snap
game.  I found the answer – without
struggle. It was information on a page, answer without struggle.

Cheap information provided
the key to the mystery.  I have
done this before.  In the old days
when we played Kings’Quest and all the other Quest titles produced by Sierra
one could download a ‘walkthru’ that solved the mysteries.  I sometimes did.

When I googled the answer to
the snap game I experienced that familiar feeling of mastery.  I ‘got’ the answer – but felt ‘empty’.  Getting the answer without figuring it
out produces a total different experience than struggling for the answer (what
I did with the Polar Bear game and some Quest games) and then getting it.  Struggling for the answer is different than getting the

Then on Wednesday someone
who watched the “Snap’s game” asked me if I figured it out and I gave him my
googled answer.  The two guys who
showed him the game were ticked off at me.  I cheapened the game by giving away an answer without
struggling for it myself and by passing it on to someone who didn’t wrestle for
the answer either.

One of the most impactful
books I’ve read for my thesis is Alan Kreider’s “The change of conversion and
the origin of Christendom.”  In it
he explains the process that led to people’s conversions before Constantine
became emperor and Christianity became the state religion.

In the second chapter he
describes “The intriguing Attraction of
Early Christianity
[1].  He describes the early followers of
Jesus as marginal, liminal, on the fringes and that they were described as “insane”.  He notes that,

“Despite disincentives, despite the scorn of the powerful,
despite persecutions, the early Christian movement was growing. Something was
deeply attractive to it.”[2]

He also described how the
enemies of Christianity found them, “intriguing;
they were rumor-worthy
[3].  These followers of Jesus exhibited “Question-Posing

Like the games we played
over the weekend there was something about the early followers that had an
aroma of secrecy, mystery and allure. 
They had “Worship that Shapes an
Attractive People
– not because they had attractive worship services for non-believers were
barred from portions of Christian services.  Kreider states that,

“If Christian worship did assist in the outreach of
the churches, it did so incidently, as a by-product, by shaping the
consciousness of the individual Christians and the character of their
communities so that their lives – and their interaction with outsiders – would
be attractive and question posing.”[6]

This kind of community was
formed through an intensive process of conversion – it wasn’t a
google-affair.  Kreider notes that,

“This could not happen quickly. It could come about
only when candidates submitted themselves to a process of ‘resocialization’ by
which their new community superintended the transformation of their beliefs,
their sense of belonging, and their patterns of behavior.  No longer would they live by the values
of the dominant society.  A process
of examination, instruction, and ritual rehabituated the candidates for
conversion, re-reflexing them into the lifestyle of an alternative community.”[7]

In order to play Polar Bear
you are superintended by the Polar Bear explaining the game.  Under his watchful eye you have to
prove by your behavior that you understand the game by giving the right answer
three times in a row.  When you
become a Polar Bear you don’t share cheaply! (Like the movie Fight Club).

As our community studies "The
Lord’s Prayer" I was reminded by Ernst Conradie that The Lord’s prayer was part
of the Early Church’s secret and mystery. 
He writes that,

should also be noted that, in the early church, the Lord's Prayer was prayed in
secret during the liturgy. All non-members had to leave the liturgy before the
prayer. The prayer was considered so radical, so dangerous, so undermining that
it could only be prayed in secret: It called for the radically new world of
God's reign.[8]

David Bosch quotes Jeremias who noted

one of the most holy treasures of the church, the Lord’s Prayer, together with
the Lord’s supper, was reserved for full members, and it was not disclosed to
those who stood outside.  It was a
privilege to be allowed to pray it.”[9]

This sounds odd to us.  We live in a google-age.  An information-age.  How is this changing our
Christianity?  Are we googling answers of secrets that we're not willing to struggle for? 

[1] Kreider, Alan
1999 “The change of conversion and the Origen of Christendom” p.10

[2] Ibid, p.10

[3] Ibid, p.11

[4] Ibid, p.12

[5] Ibid, p.14

[6] Ibid, p.14

[7] Ibid, p.21

[8] Conradie,
Ernst 2005 “Mission as evangelism and as development? Some perspectives from
the Lord’s prayer” : Internation review of mission 94:375

[9] David Bosch,
“The Lord’s prayer: Paradigm for a Christian lifestyle” p.6