I have an awesome job. I don't always know if I'm good at being a pastor, but it's always fun trying.
This morning at office hours Scott leaned over to me as Megan and Bonnie were chatting and asked me sotto voce:
"Jeff, what is God?"
I must admit that I failed to answer well immediately. Cut me some slack. It was early and it's a BIG QUESTION.
We chatted about it for like an hour, in which time we got somewhere after talking about a lot of things. First, when it comes to God I have never found there to be any easy answers. If you want easy answers, I am mostly incapable of providing them because I often feel called to work out an issue with people so thoroughly that in the end your question is 50% answered, 50% irrelevant, and 100% leading you toward the next question or struggle in your journey of spiritual discovery. Of course, we all have to pace ourselves, and there are times when we just need to rest in the love of our Creator, Savior, and Sustainer - no questions asked.
Scott and I discussed apophatic theology, the via negativa: God exists. God does not exist. God does not not exist.
And we talked about the closest approximation to an easy answer on God that I know how to give:
God is a Mystery.
This piece of my theology gets woven into worship services when I introduce the Prayer that Jesus taught us, the Lord's Prayer: "When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray he taught them these words so that we would always have a means to connect with the Great Mystery..."
I had a similar amazing-Spirit-talk talk in Diesel Cafe last week with Jessica where we were asking similar questions, this time about Jesus. Who is this Jesus person anyway? I again expressed this piece of my theology. For me, Jesus is the entryway into the BIG QUESTION.
These two conversations brought me back to writing out my theological perspective for my ordination paper. The whole paper is 20 pages long. I'll spare you. But the opening paragraphs on my theology and the opening paragraph on "Why Jesus" seem relevant here, so I'll share them:
Centuries of theological writings and discussions on the topic of God have demonstrated how absolutely difficult it is to say anything about God at all. What can we say about God? What should we be saying? Can we, as finite beings in physical form who have no ability to experience being itself, really assert that God exists? What would that existence look like? Where would it be located?
One way of dealing with this has been to think of God as the biggest and the best. God is Great! God is Eternal! God is Omnipotent! God is the Primary Cause! God is Infinite! But even such big words fail to breach the barriers of our own limitations. God, in fact, must be beyond the infinite. But even that notion brings us no closer to comprehending God’s true “existence.”
I will risk contradicting myself (which is hard not to do when searching for words about God) by saying that God is a Mystery – as the great theologian Denys the Areopagite put it in the 15th century, God is beyond all assertions and denials. Perhaps we could say that God then goes beyond belief – what is it that we believe in when it is impossible to assert or deny any tangible reality, any lingual descriptors, any self-evident truth about God? Ultimately, in each of our lives and in our communities, God is a matter of faith.
Faith goes beyond belief. When belief is shattered, faith endures. Faith rests easy in the midst of imponderable mysteries. Faith ultimately doesn’t care whether God is or is not benevolent, intelligent, loving, or accessible – these are just words. Sometimes faith sees it one way, sometimes the other. Sometimes great faith doesn’t bother to look at all. Great faith just leaps – and trusts.
For me, as a Christian, Jesus is a tangible access point into the great Mystery. Jesus has saved me by showing me the Way. His is the way of the servant. He does not sit at the table, but he serves the table. He knocks at the door and asks leave to enter. He washes feet. He eats with tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners. He dwells with, organizes, heals, and empowers the last, the least, and the lost. I believe that all those who choose to engage Jesus’ message and walk his way, at any level, enter into relationship with the Resurrected Christ, who listens, learns, adapts, and continually offers “living water” – new possibilities for relationship, transformation, and liberation – to those who seek it.
Jesus the Imagination
Thoughts and dreams, musings and meditations