Wednesday, October 12, 2011

“In whom we live and move and have our being”

What would happen if we were to take this phrase seriously? Not literally, but as something more than figurative. What if God is the medium in which we exist?

Maybe Earth’s atmosphere is a good analogy, but rather than molecules of the various life-sustaining gases in which we are immersed from the moment of our birth, God is the “spiritual” atmosphere of the Creation. It can't be simply a linguistic coincidence that so many ancient languages used the same word for spirit, breath, and wind. If we move beyond the experiential aspects suggested by these linked terms to the theological, it isn't a great leap to imagine that the universe (and everything in it) is permeated by God’s presence. But that presence is attenuated, stretched so thin that it is not readily apparent. It’s more of a residue, an echo just before it fades to inaudible, an after-image on the retina just before it vanishes—real, but greatly diminished.

How would we account for such a state of affairs? One way would be to suppose that everything we think of as the physical universe now exists in a space that once was part of God. God intentionally withdrew God's Being from this space so that the Creation could come into existence in the first place as something separate from God’s own existence.

“The Earth is filled with the glory of the Lord,” says the Psalmist. Evidently, even God’s greatly reduced, filtered, and attenuated presence is enough to dazzle us mere mortals. But it is not enough to overwhelm us and trump our wills. Not enough to dictate the course of events in our lives, our world, or our universe. And this according to God’s plan.

God’s presence in Creation takes the form of love, which, though it is the greatest force in Creation, makes its power known in weakness. God loves us enough to give us freedom—and not just us, but the whole Creation as well. Since we are all made of the same basic building blocks, we all partake of the same energy, and we all exist in the same “atmosphere” of God’s presence, from the tiniest newborn baby to galactic super clusters, and everything in between, we are all connected and all cherished by our Creator.
Only the most amazing and awesome God would choose to create in this way!

And since Jesus was also part of it all, from the outset, I'm pretty sure he gives a rat's ass about it.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

English as a Foreign Language

I recently spent about 8 days “across the pond” in England. The purpose of the trip was to participate in a three-day academic conference held by the Brontë Society at Cambridge University (in my other life, I’m sort of an expert on the writings of Charlotte Brontë), but I added five days onto the end of it to be “on holiday” as they say over there.

I “hired” a car when I landed at Heathrow and set off toward Cambridge. Seated on the right (wrong?) side of the car, with no
“SatNav” and no one to read the map for me, I “gave way” at countless “roundabouts,” waited in “queues,” dodged “lorries” and “HGV’s” on the “motorway,” and tried to remember to “overtake” only on the right, all the while trying to figure out why they measure distances in miles but buy “petrol” by the litre. Once in Cambridge, I wandered back and forth on the “ring road” before finally finding my way to the Homerton College “car park,” so I could check in at the “Porter’s Lodge.” Sunday, after the conference ended, I headed north for Yorkshire, taking “the A14,” which is a “dual carriageway,” to “the M1.” Before it was all over, I had learned about “zebra crossings” and “zig-zag” zones, “lay-bys” of both the “nearside” and offside” variety, and how to “negotiate a compromise” with the oncoming driver on country lanes that calling a one-lane road would be an exaggeration.

Needless to say, driving on my first visit to the UK was an adventure. Most of the folks I met at the conference couldn’t believe I was brave (or foolish) enough to do it. But I’m glad I did. My experience of British culture was much fuller and richer because of it. What I discovered is that, even when they talk funny, people are pretty much people, whether they’re in Cambridge or in Crockett. And when we remember our similarities and appreciate our differences, I think Jesus gives a rat's ass about that.