Saturday, December 09, 2006
Finding God where (s)he shouldn't belong
I wonder what the homecoming of the human spirit will look like? Will it be like, as Father O’Donohue describes:
‘As stillness in stone to silence is wed
As a river flows in ideal sequence
As the moon absolves the dark of distance
As the breath of light awakens colour
As spring rain softens the earth with surprise
As the ocean dreams to the joy of the dance
As clay anchors a tree in light and wind
As twilight fills night with bright horizons
May beauty await you at home beyond.'
I’ve been trying to get my head round the Almighty, we’ve had a bit of a week together, my conversations (actually rants) have mirrored President Bartlett’s heated interaction with the Divine at Mrs Langenham’s(?!) funeral. And after all our altercations this week the only conclusion my thoughts have given me is that the more I know the less I understand. Life, with all its concurrent struggles and painful beauty, has brought me to the point where all the things I thought I knew I am now having to learn again. In the long run (and the long run is all there is), when everything is said and done, James was right; by their fruit shall we know the truthful ones. Shaped by the practice of church culture it just may be that I (and I don’t think I’m alone) have limited the context of the road to God. What do I mean by that? I mean that we have made God way too small.
Mystery is something sadly lacking in Western Christian spirituality, sure there are pockets of it, but they are pockets at best. Put bluntly the church’s response to Modernity put pay to that. We became the finest example of a culture preoccupied with answers rather than one who would embrace questions and mystery, and I would propose this is one of the major reasons as to why many people in the post-modern, post-Christian West struggle to connect with our Institution, and so consequently God.
For instance, where do we invest our love, passion and energy? Very few of us really go to the margins – the edge – partly due to the fear of what we will find, or because we are so conditioned that these are not the kind of landscapes that good Christian folk should be traversing. So often we are not looking. So often we are taught not to look, and because of that we become convinced that it is wrong to look. Unfortunately this is rather indicative of the lack of any mysterious, creative, imaginative, incarnate and relational connection that may possibly exist with those perceived to be outside the ‘chosen few’.
In reality we fail so often to authentically allow God’s presence in many a marginalised person’s world. Examples of this are littered in the Scriptures. I will vindicate my statement with the example of Peter. His reluctance to partake of specific foods was consistent with the Jewish tradition of holiness. This grew from a separatist approach to piety – that which divided, in church speak, the clean from the unclean. Here was a man who has followed the Christ in a way beyond even my imagination – but who didn’t realise the implications of the message of this same Christ until he met Cornelius.
For what it’s worth the Western church (all denominations included) needs to rediscover the mystery of what it means to be a friend of tax collectors, prostitutes, and drunkards. This will be messy and will not happen without a certain degree of theological tension. True holiness, real passion for humanity should not keep us from the margins of mystery – rather it should drive us into them - saturated in the faith of the one we follow. For within the margins we find God very much alive in places many of us would say (s)he doesn’t belong.
It seems to me that God is more involved in the love of humanity than the maintenance of an institution, and, as my friend Stocki says, ‘some may think this is blasphemy, but I believe it to be true. God lies here beside you in the gutter, while grace, like a mother, holds you.’