I went to the 10:30 Service on New Years Day at St Peters in Surry Hills, after attending the Lord Mayor’s party at the Sydney Opera House the evening before. The church was cool and the service quiet. I was suddenly struck by the enduring simplicity of what takes place every Sunday at St Peters, and the contrast with the complexity of the world I bring with me into that small peaceful church every week.
What is simplicity?
My definition of simplicity would be “What you see is what is there.” No hidden agendas; no misleading messages. That may puzzle you. If a stranger were to attend the service at St Peters they might well be mystified about what was going on but the people who are there understand exactly what is happening. To them it is simple. I don’t mean that each person experiences exactly the same thing, or understands the theology the same but they all see exactly the same simple “what is there.” God is present.
What is complexity?
What do I bring with me to St Peters? The way I look at the world. I sometimes joke that the world has to be complicated for me because I am an engineer / physicist / management consultant. There wouldn’t be anything for me to do if the world were simple. I like to solve complicated puzzles so I like to see the world as complex so I can unravel it. My suspicion is that all of us have been shaped by our education and experience to see the world as complex, even though we aren’t engineers or scientists. The scientific “paradigm” is prevasive in the modern world. We see myriads of interrelationships and issues and assume that everything must be complex. We don’t leave any room for simplicity.
Advice from a recovering “complexity-olic”
As every recovering alcoholic knows, the advice from a brother or sister alcoholic carries more weight than advice from a sober person. I am a “complexity-olic” and I know how hard it is to see simplicity when everything appears to be so complicated. You have to admit to yourself that you can’t get out of the complexity trap on your own, and seek help. Until I was able to ask a “higher power” to help me, I was stuck in theological intricacy and religious issues. I couldn’t be in St Peters — or quietly sit in my home — and simply be present to God. As a recovering complexity-olic, every day is still a struggle for me, but I take each day as it comes, opening my eyes to see the simple presence of God in the midst of life here in Sydney. My advice? Do what God suggests in Psalm 46:10 — “Be still, and know that I am God.”
© 2012, James Harlow Brown. All rights reserved.