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Spiritual Tethers

September 12, 2011

A tether is a cord or fixture that anchors something movable to a reference point which may be fixed or moving.

Examples include a balloon, kite, or tethering an animal to restrict its movement, allowing a short radius in which it can move about. Another example is to tether an astronaut to the space station so that he doesn’t accidently float away.

 For most of us we think of tetherball. A volleyball tethered by a rope to a pole.

We tend to think of something moveable (volleyball) tethered (rope) to something stationary (pole). Yet a true tether can connect two movable objects to each other, or multiple objects, moving or stationary, to each other.

 I had never really given much thought to two movable objects being tethered together. What would be the point? However there has been scientific research looking into the possibility of tethering a high altitude plane with an orbiting satellite. The hypothetical benefit would be to “transfer” energy from the satellite to the plane, thus catapulting it into orbit without the use of expensive rockets.

 Coming back down to earth, I somehow envision the winter Olympics, pairs (or is it paired?) ice-skating. The couple lock arms: one is skating and spinning while the other jumps and extends parallel over the ice. Only to land, skate and spin while the other partner jumps and extends. This transfer of momentum allows one partner to glide through the air temporarily defying gravity. The tether acts as a conduit to transfer power while at the same time preventing one partner from proving Newton’s first law of motion. An object in motion will tend to stay in motion (in a straight line) unless the body is acted upon by an external force…in this case a locked-arm tether.

 What always amazed me when watching Olympic skaters performing part of their routine was the number of times in a row that they would spin-tether-jump-land-spin-tether-jump-land. With each jump you could see the strain on the tether increasing. The audience grows tense waiting forNewton’s law to be proven at every jump. Energy levels of both partners are being consumed with each repeating cycle.

 In a sense there is a spiritual tether that is attached when one makes a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. We are the random bouncing volleyball that now has become tethered to the immovable God, this force and power that is our immovable spiritual restraint. There is a harnessing of energy in this human ball that wants to stay in motion, in a straight line, not wanting to be tethered. Tension increases within the tether.

 There are days when I feel my primary tether to the Lord is frayed and ready to snap sending me out of orbit and further away from my source of strength. Perhaps it is created by my own centrifugal force that selfishly wants freedom from restraint. Perhaps there are other forces also working against my tether.

 Fortunately, today was not one of those days.

 After three days of 100+ degree heat, the weather finally broke in time for our church’s fall baptism. It was a beautiful sunny, breezy day at theSan DiegoBay. Jet skis buzzing about in the water. An occasional helicopter flying overhead. Sailboats racing in a regatta off in the distance. The jumpy joy was in place as usual next to the tall oak tree! (Good thing Mr. Jumpy brought the generator we forgot to order!) The grills were hot, preparing hamburgers for the 100’s that would be showing up despite opening day of the NFL. The full moon causing the lowest tide we have ever experienced at our baptisms, exposing shell fragments in the sand. Pastor Ed rises to stand on the table symbolizing the official start of the Fall 2011 Journey Community Church Baptism. Everyone gathers around. Guitars playing. The gentle banging on the cajon (box like mobile drum). Voices rising in the air strengthening each individual tether. For many, this was not our first baptism. Not even the first this year. For 30 people this was entirely a new experience.

 While salvation is what we might call the invisible tether that links each one of us directly to the eternal restraint, spiritual community is what we might call the tether that links each of us together, enabling us to transfer power from one partner to the other as needed.

 There is something supernatural that happens at baptism that strengthens this tether-network. One the one hand it allows greater energy to flow from one anchored partner to the other partner hurling through space. One the other hand, it increases the strength of the tether itself allowing for additional pressure without becoming frayed or severed.

 As I pause and closed my eyes, I could feel the stress and strain of my primary tether being released. Strength and resiliency being restored.  I could sense the presence of 30 more people being attached to the JCC network of tethers (No I am not getting Star Wars ish here). With each person that steps in the water I feel a sense of rejoicing as I watch people making a public display of an inward spiritual decision. With each person that goes under water, I am in awe.  As they come up, I am humbled at the thought and the responsibility to stay tethered. Holding on tighter so that my skating partner (s) don’t become disconnected and hurled into eternity alone.

 This Journey we call life is full of unexpected twists and turns. The simplest of divots in the ice can throw off the whole routine. And so I hold on a little tighter in hopes of finishing well. At the end of my routine I will stand before a cheering heavenly audience. There will only be one judge. There wont be any score card from 1 to 10, only  a pass/fail. In. or Out. The audience will become quiet in anticipation of the judges ruling. With my heart beating ever so loudly, I long to hear those words: Well done, good and faithful servant. …You didn’t let go.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life
I won’t turn back
I know you are near

And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?

(Chorus:)
Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

And I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
We’ll live to know You here on the earth

(chorus:)

Yes, I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You

Song lyrics by Matt Redman

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