I am fascinated by the current fame of Marie Kondo and her method of “tidying up.” I should really say that I am fascinated by our reaction to her. I first became aware of her a few years ago when my wife read her book and went through her things using her method. Now, with this Netflix series, I am again thinking about her method of keeping and letting go things and I have two observations.
The first observation I have is that we, as a religion, are in need of a tidying. We are long overdue for taking a long, hard look at ourselves individually and as a community and ask, “what pieces of our common life are working and giving joy and life and what parts of our common life have served their purpose and we can new let them go?” I realize this may be harder than getting rid of our formerly favorite sweatshirt, but the rewards are equally more satisfying. Besides, there is precedent in history for reviewing our situation and saying things need to change. Martin Luther and Thomas Cranmer are two historical notables who held each piece of the Church and asked if this piece is still giving life to the Church.
But I think we need to go one step farther in the Church. We also need to ask if there are pieces in the Church that have not only served their purpose, but things that are being kept because they keep us from serving the Gospel. Are there methods of doing things, attitudes, structures, and even interpretations of scripture that we keep around to make sure we never have to look Jesus in the face? Never have to answer the demand and the claim the Gospel puts on our life? Where do we need to clear out old excuses and meet the new life promised by God in Jesus Christ?
Secondly, we need to not wait 500 years to tidy up our religious closet. We need to not wait 50 years. We are in regular need of tidying up ourselves and our religious life. There are very good reasons not to wait too long. I was getting ready to take a a pile of old clothes to the Good Will, when I heard that, due to the “Tidying Up” craze, there is an overabundance of items at many clothing banks. That is a good problem, sort of. When we wait too long to clean out closets and our lives, we run out of space to put things, we run out of energy to keep cleaning, and we run the risk of thinking that this is the last time we need to tidy our closet. All of these issues serve to keep us from doing the work of the Gospel.
Jesus calls us to continuously tidy up, keep awake, walk the path, make an active choice. I like Marie Kondo, and I like her methods. I think they have a lot of good things to offer the Church, but they are a beginning, not an end, just as deciding to follow Jesus is the beginning, not the end.