I am concerned about the language we use when we speak of God.
Words are important. They ought not to be thrown about casually as if they were cheap, Reject Shop candy.
Words have power. Used wisely and appropriately, they can change lives, build communities, shape nations. Used foolishly they can bring false understanding, stir hatred, or incite fear.
That’s why I am troubled by the cheap, throwaway lines used by church leaders such as “Let’s make Jesus famous” (like God’s son is a Hollywood A-list celebrity nobody knows). Or the way people speak of our “unworthiness” or “sinfulness” (I was under the impression that God in grace and immense love has made us worthy). Or, directed towards God, “Lord, come down and meet with us here today” (as if God is one who is distant, apart from us, and whose presence depends on our invitation or prayer).
But on the peak of this mountain of bargain-basement language is the phrase used often after an especially moving time of worship (a.k.a. emotionally-charged singing): “And God showed up.”
God showed up? Really?
God chose this moment in time, and this particular location (usually within the confines of a church building) waiting patiently until we were fervently praying and singing and raising our hands to “show up”?
Allow me to turn this one on its head.
God didn’t show up.
God doesn’t show up.
God never needs to show up.
God is always here.
It is we who “show up” when we realise that God has always been here. It is we who “show up” when we become aware that we are always standing on holy ground and everything and everyone around us is engulfed in the presence of the Divine.
It is we who “show up” when we respond to these encounters by acknowledging that is our blindness that kept us from seeing God and our misplaced focus that kept us from entering the divine dance.
“Surely the Lord is in this place,” the Hebrew patriarch Jacob is quoted as saying, “—and I wasn’t even aware of it!” (Genesis 28:16, NLT)
God is not some magical genie whom we can summon any time we need a favour, a fix, or a recharge.
God is not dependent on our prayers, our Facebook “likes,” or certain worship songs sung in a certain sincere and holy manner to visit with us.
God is here.
Not just in a church building or in a Christian gathering, but…
…in every place (home, garden, mosque, desert, public square)…
…at any gathering (class, football game, bat mitzvah, parliament)…
…at any given moment in time (now, tomorrow, when you turn 80 years old, forever).
Sacred Presence. Now. Always.
It’s us who need to show up.
It’s our eyes that need to be opened.
It’s we who need to wake up and be aware of the great dance going on around us all the time.
And in waking from our sleep, we rise to join in and celebrate the God who is always with us.
* * * * *
My thinking about the concept of God has been challenged and strengthened by the framework Rob Bell has proposed in both his books and his podcast. I highly recommend his most recent episodes on God Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, as well has his book What We Talk About When We Talk About God. I also recommend Pete Rollins’s similarly-titled book, How (Not) to Speak of God. Both are available on Amazon Kindle.
My understanding is evolving and is, as I noticed when I looked back at a few of my older posts, changing. I want to keep on this trajectory since I feel this area is, in fact, inexhaustible and my present understanding, relatively speaking, has quite a long way to grow.