surface and depth

sacred secularFor some time I have struggled with the sacred/secular divide that to me seems to be quite prevalent in popular church culture. I might be wrong, as I am aware of a tendency I can have of generalising (being accountable to your best friend and wife means such things are pointed out to you on a regular basis!), but … there does seem to be a populist divide that seems to say … ‘this stuff is ok and ‘holy’, while this stuff is not good and should be ‘treated with care’.

Now clearly not everything is good for us. If I went out today and drank 15 pints of my favourite, and beautifully created by God, ale the likelihood is that I would not wake up. Alternatively if I pray all that for my next door neighbour to receive badly needed food and simply stay on my knees in my house with my full cupboards there is a possibility that she won’t wake up. But, the abuse of something good does not make that ‘something’ wrong or bad for you.

Richard Rohr’s thoughts this week have been exploring this sacred/secular thing at more depth. I have been nodding away and smiling as his words have reminded his readers that all of creation was created by God, that God is everywhere, that God is both within and without (a Gatsby link!), that all people are created in the image of God. Now if all that is true then it goes that there is no where where God cannot be. If God is present then by default the place where God is must be sacred, so … everywhere is sacred. It’s simple although messes with my head quite a bit.

I think of Moses at the burning bush. He takes of his shoes as he sees the flames and hears God’s voice. Does he take off his shoes because the ground suddenly becomes sacred, or does he remove them because the ground was always sacred and he has just realised? I think it is the latter. The ground I walk on each day as I wander Gillingham High Street is sacred …. that is quite a mind blowing thought for so may reasons!

I think today’s thought from Rohr kind of hits this on the hed for me. Maybe it is not so much about sacred and secular, but more about surface and depth …. ‘Everything is profane if you live on the surface of it, and everything is sacred if you go into the depths of it’ read more here as Rohr puts it better than most ever could!

mystery

Last Sunday was Trinity Sunday, and I was on the rota to preach.

I have heard endless sermons that have tried to explain the Trinity. I have heard the Trinity described as something like a jaffa cake, or something like steam, water and ice; or like one person who can be mum, sister and daughter.

I guess there is something in each of those analogies (well maybe not the jaffa cake one!) but I think that sometimes they, and we, miss the point.

God being three and yet one does not make sense. God being three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is mind boggling. It’s a mystery.

In our limited human understanding and vocabulary we are trying to describe a life that is totally outside of our experience or even our wildest dreams. In short, we are trying to describe what is indescribable for us. God is Trinity … and that’s that!

I shared on Sunday a visit I made a spart of my training with SEITE to the Chatham synagogue. We met the person in charge called Gabriel. I had developed a question during the week but now I cannot remember the question; but his answer has stayed with me for nearly 6 years now! He looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and said ‘God will be God.’ As he said it he gave a look that simply said ‘why are you bothering to even ask that? It’s a mystery … it’s meant to be a mystery … God is God!’

Within church, and maybe even in society, I wonder whether we have got bogged down in trying to explain everything. I guess this comes from a need or desire to be in control. In our pondering over trying ‘to work it out’ we are in danger of missing out on simply enjoying life and being who we were created to be.

AS an illustration I have noticed a big difference between children and adults at art exhibions. In particular I remember the Shibboleth of Doris Salcedo in the Tate Modern a few years ago. Adults looked and tried to explain it, wondering whether it was a trick and how it was made. Children played in it, stuck their hands and legs inside it, and enjoyed it. Adults tried to explain while children accepted the beauty of the mystery.

There is a tension in accepting mystery when you live in a 21st century technological world – but I wonder whether it is a tension we need to relax into so that we can ‘enjoy’ rather than miss the beauty as we attempt to ‘explain’.