Tuesday, December 9, 2008

God IS with us

Reporters wait outside the Governor General’s residence. As the Prime Minister’s assistants bring out a podium it begins to rain. When Stephen Harper steps up to the podium to announce that Parliament has been perogied, it begins to hail.

I think, “God is with us”.

The idea that God is active in my life; paying attention to all the small details, taking care of me and encouraging me along, is a persistent notion. Reason is in charge most days. I march through the day assuming that destiny is firmly in my grip. The way that every muscle responds to my commands – not without complaint – assures me that I am in control of my day.

Of course I am largely unaware of what is going on in my body. It has its own universe of systems and functions that operate without my say so. There are solar systems within that orbit around the bright burning star (my stomach) cycling through seasons every hour, every year, every minute – I have no idea.

In this body there exists a microcosm, or microcosms of everything the Maker has made. Now, you may or may not agree that my body is “heavenly” but, take a look at your own. On your fingertip alone there is a swirling pattern on the surface that looks an awful lot like photgraphs of swirling galaxies – no? And, there isn’t another swirl like the one on your finger anywhere else on the planet.

Where do these cosmic contemplations come from early on a Monday morning? Cynthia Bourgeault in her book “The Wisdom Jesus” has got me thinking about the relationship between my sore big toe and the Suffering Servant of Isaiah’s imagination. He arrived centuries after Isaiah dreamed him up – born to be crucified, followed, pursued, studied and studiously ignored ever since.

Bourgeault draws from ancient mystical wisdom traditions to discuss what the Maker was up to creating this particular planet within this particular universe. She presents the idea that heaven, earth, and hell are only three of an infinite number of “realms”. This multitude of realms that might contain and reveal God’s glory has in some strange way lifted my heart.

If there are countless other realms – countless because counting is a particular trait of this one – then the suffering of this world seems somehow bearable. Bourgeault ponders whether love in the face of suffering is the particular aspect of God's love that this realm most reflects? Other realms may reflect other characteristics of God, but this one’s raison d’etre is to express the beauty and power of costly love.

Love against all odds, against all reason, against the grain of the way the world seems to run. Love that is committed, sacrificial, steadfast. Love that suffers as a choice when other easier options are available.

The incarnation is more difficult than the crucifixion. As painful as death was, at least it ended with a release back into infinite glory. The incarnation offered God’s free limitless glory only limitations. To get hungry and tired every day. To get bruised and scraped and battered with every venture forth. To have one’s heart broken inevitably, awfully, with every attachment one risks. This was God’s choice in Jesus.

“For God so loved the world…” God chose to discover the beauty of food and rest. To discover the satisfaction that makes the bruises worth it. To discover the joy that bursts like a green shoot in spring from a winter’s broken heart. To express these shades and colours in paint and song and word and in each day’s dance. This is our choice.

Jesus came – perhaps – not so much to "save" us from suffering. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. With us in every choice we make to pursue the costly path instead of the easy one. With us when we run and hide and with us when we turn and try again.

Somehow, for me, getting the big picture helps. I need to try to see things through God’s eyes. I need to make some sense of the suffering and God’s role in it before I can take a step into the chaos of choices I have before me today.


corrie said...

Hi Allan, I can't agree more. Obstacles or none, God is there with us. We pick ourselves up and go on, or are we picked up at times? I just know that what is within me is joyous and secure. What more do we want, we just have to listen to that voice, it is there. Wonderful!

coyotejoan said...

Allan, I love how Cynthia Bourgeault has opened up other dimensions of the Christian story for you, and how you see the universe in your fingertip...yes, God IS with us - I too believe - in all the petty concerns of the day to day to day...and the way is to expand in to God's seeing - beyond the small seeing of our own sight...you're there.

brenda said...

Sorry, Allan...didn't realize I was in Joan's box...