I learned a new word today, “equipoise.” Theologian C. Clifton Black used it in a sentence and I simply had to look it up. The sentence read, “[The Gospel writer] Mark presents in equipoise human responsibility and God’s grace.” I found out the word means to be in counterbalance, equilibrium, stasis.
The Chargers star quarterback Philip Rivers has learned how to play with equipoise. He is equally fearless and cautious when throwing the football. When I had a pool, I found that chlorine and muriatic acid keep the pool water in equipoise. I have seen relationships in which one partner likes to save and the other likes to spend. Although disagreements arise, they are likely in equipoise with their spending habits. Some who follow politics have said that President Bill Clinton needed House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Gingrich needed Clinton, to equipoise, or balance out, the shared powers of the executive and legislative branches of government. As we head towards Halloween, I’d like to say that the best candy bar in the world contains chocolate in equipoise with peanut butter.
This week we had our annual Clergy Conference. A hallmark of our time together is table snacks consisting of almonds and chocolate covered peanut M&M’s. What can I say – it’s a tradition. I am awed by the Mars Company because they found the perfect balance between peanut, chocolate and candy coating. Somehow they repeat the balance flawlessly from one colorful nugget to the next. At the conference, we were sharing difficulties in our ordination path. I shared that in seminary there were afternoon classes that I needed a certain boost in order to survive. That boost was a particular chocolate bar that I purchased at a liquor store kitty corner from the school’s parking lot. It was 98% cocoa dark chocolate. The bitter and slightly sweet taste kept me alert during the second half of an afternoon class. It brought me equipoise – it balanced out the drudgery of 13th century history and theology. To this day, when I stumble across writing from the Middle Ages I can taste dark chocolate in my mouth.
Besides candy, one of the things we discussed at Clergy Conference was why people search and stay with a church. We have found that folks look for a church because they feel as if their life is out of balance. A sense of God in one’s life is often an equipoise against the pressures of life.
Back to Professor Black’s assertion that this Sunday’s Gospel lesson presents equipoise in human responsibility and God’s grace. I wonder. Some theologians assert that God’s grace is a reaction to human sin. Others say God’s grace stands alone and is not contingent on the existence of sin. I think Black’s point is that we humans have a responsibility to follow God in Christ but can’t without the Grace of God.
I’ll let theologians figure out human responsibility, sin and grace. I am comfortable knowing that Jesus is my equipoise in life. He is my counterbalance; he gives me grace and peace in a world that seems to have little of either. When the cares of the world pull me off balance, Christ brings me to stasis and reminds me to be still and know that he is God.