Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Blessing of Complexity

It hit me the other day, as I was reviewing a thematic bible study called Kerygma, that the concept of God in the Bible is anything but static.  In fact what hit me is an odd paradox.  That the more the people got to know God, the less they thought they knew God.  In short, the more confusing and bewildering God and God's ways became.

In the beginning it was so easy.  Be good, prosper.  Be bad, suffer.  God is on your side, you win.  God isn't on your side?  You lose. Faith was all a matter of nice little formulas.  A + B = C.  But the problem was that the formula's didn't work. at least not all the time.  Evil Kings prospered and Good Kings got killed by the enemy.  Bad things happened to good people.  It got confusing!  Just ask Job!  And every time people thought they had it figured out, something happened to make it abundantly clear that they did not.

Alas!  And so confusing!  Anger!  Frustration!  All those things that occur when we don't "get it" surface in the pages of scripture.  It is interesting however.  The more we realize that we can't figure it all out, that we can't put God in a box, or define God with a formula, the bigger God gets.

Or maybe it is better to say the more we understand how big God is. As Brennan Manning says, "the more complex and emotional the image of God becomes in the Bible the bigger He grows, and the more we approach the mystery of His indefinability."

There are times when I wished the formulas worked.  That A + B always equaled C.  When a really good guy (Go with God Mikey O'Conner) dies of cancer, when an oil well explodes and pollutes an ocean, when crackpots get to pretend the nonsense they spout is really news (Glen and Sean), when the rich get their way and the poor get poorer, when a really nice person is afflicted with mental illness.  I wish it worked the way I think it should  -  God?  Why don't you make it so?!

But in the end I am rather glad I don't get my way.  I would be toast!  And in the end, I am glad that there is one thing clear about God.  God loves us.  God gave us the most powerful image possible, the cross, to make sure we understand one unalterable truth.  That we are loved with a ferocious love.  A love that forgives and heals.  A love that allows us to be open, fearless, giving and forgiving ourselves.

I have to remember that critical fact about God.  Yes dear British Petroleum Executives.  Yes Sean and Glen.  Yes members of House and Senate.  Yes, all of you.  God's love is for you as well as me.  No more, no less.  We are all loved.  Saint, sinners, ministers, hookers, rich poor, oil executive, environmentalist... we are all loved by God.  The nature of God's love is outrageous.  Couldn't God arrange to have a little more discretion?  More dignity?

No.  Thank God!
Forgive me God when I struggle to accept your inexplicable, embarrassing love, and for those many times when I do not offer that same love to others. 

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