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Week of the Sunday from July 24 to July 30
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Virtual Reality vs. Real Reality
I was recently talking after church with a friend of mine who runs a game shop. They sell board games and trading cards, but also dabble in some video games.
Apparently, they’ve got a virtual reality station set up, where customers can experience the latest technology. They don a helmet and gloves that completely immerse them—eyes, ears, and hands—in a whole other world. The player moves around in real space and the system is intelligent enough (thankfully) to provide warnings before anyone stumbles blindly into walls or obstacles in search of imaginary gold or running away from pixelated ‘bad guys.’
I’ve yet to try this, or even witness it firsthand, but the description is compelling. You wouldn’t imagine that the experience could be so realistic that you would forget where you really were, that you would be in danger of smacking into walls, but—my friend tells me—it happens all the time.
In our lives, we are prone to think of God sometimes as distant or out of touch. We see the circumstances of our world—and the circumstances of our heart—and think of ourselves as the primary movers waiting on God to catch up. But our collect this week reminds us that this perception could not be further from reality or at least real reality.
Our collect reminds us that we spend most of our time in a virtual reality. Those things that seem most immediate and substantial in our lives are in fact no more vivid than strings of ones and zeroes. Our pursuit of shimmering gold coins, our fears of all manner of ‘bad guys’ would soon evaporate if only we could surface from this shadow existence and see reality aright again.
If once we saw things as they truly were, we would find the God we imagined so far off was so near to us that we had all but stumbled into Him. We would find Him more present, “more ready to hear, and to give” than we ever imagined.
Desire and Fear
To understand the abundance of God’s mercy is at once to have our desires reoriented and our fears redirected. We stop chasing fool’s gold and stop fearing boogeymen. In a sense, our collect informs us, our desires and our fears are intertwined. When we see real reality, we desire only God’s presence and we fear only that, because of our sin, we will be unable to stand it.
And that mingled desire and fear cohere in the person of Jesus, whose “merits and mediation” were lived out not in some mystical plane of existence, but in the world of flesh and blood. We want only Jesus; we need only Jesus. The life he offers is the abundance only cheaply promised by our former pursuits. The forgiveness he offers frees us to confess those sins that had held us locked in shame.
We ought to rehearse this collect often, as much as a plea to God as a reminder to ourselves. Despite the virtual reality our senses and our broken reason present to us, we inhabit a world in which God is more near, more present, more active than we ever dared hope or dream.
Kolby Kerr is an Anglican priest who serves at Restoration Anglican Church in Richardson, Texas. He’s also the Assistant Director (and regular blog contributor) at LeaderWorks, a nonprofit organization that provides leadership services to help church leaders do their work. Before joining LeaderWorks, Kolby taught high school English for ten years. He and his wife Emily live in Richardson with their two sons, Beckett and Samuel.