Knowing God

So this morning at the bandstand, in glorious sunshine and warmth, we began with a prayer by David Adam called Veni Creator:

Come Lord
Come down
Come in
Come among us

Come as the wind
To move us
Come as the light
To prove us
Come as the night
To rest us
Come as the storm
To test us
Come as the sun
To warm us
Come as the stillness
To calm us

Come Lord
Come down
Come in
Come among us

Wendy led the time reviewing the past few months and weeks where we have thought about the kingdom of God being at a quantum level and carried within us and wrestled with how we know God. Much was based on her recent reading of David Adam’s book ‘Occasions for Alleluias’.
He points out that there is a problem with dissecting. Whist it is right to want to journey in our faith, to question assumptions and expand our horizons, there is a difficulty in dissecting it as with anything. A dry analysis of poetry or a novel in an English class can kill it and have us miss the spirit of it altogether. Cutting open an eye or a frog may be interesting but is far removed from the power of an eye that sees or a frog that leaps. In the same way, getting caught up with definitions of what we mean or believe can limit and, ironically, reduce, the reality of that which we experience. This linked with something Colin said last week about avoiding definitions of theological positions… (I’ve thought about that and concluded you were right Colin!)
In his book, David Adam points out that the solidity of matter is an illusion. 99.99% of matter is space – between and within cells. God loves space! It maybe links with our recent thinking of the sub-atomic level  Jesus speaking of the kingdom of God being within us?
No wonder we don’t understand God – it’s Flatland all over again! (Edwin A Abbott’s book about not understanding the dimensions beyond ours which must nevertheless exist).
But we can know something of God because God makes herself known! And so we all set out into the park with things to ponder and reflect on.:

God revealed in the world

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:
‘All around us, to right and left, in front and behind, above and below, we have only to go a little beyond the frontier of sensible appearances in order to see the divine welling up and showing through… by means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, moulds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers. In eo vivimus. [We live in it.] As Jacob said, awakening from his dream, the world, this palpable world, which we were wont to treat with the boredom and disrespect with which we habitually regard places with no sacred association for us, is in truth a holy place, and we did not know it. Venite adoremus.’ [Come let us adore him]

The Gospel of Thomas 77 ‘’Jesus said, “Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.”

Exercise: Find a view, a plant, a person, a dog…to look at for a few moments and remind yourself – this is in truth a holy place and we did not know it.

God revealed in hindsight

Exodus 33: 18-23 ‘Moses said, “Please. Let me see your Glory.” GOD said, “I will make my Goodness pass right in front of you; I’ll call out the name, GOD, right before you. I’ll treat well whomever I want to treat well and I’ll be kind to whomever I want to be kind.”
GOD continued, “But you may not see my face. No one can see me and live.” GOD said, “Look, here is a place right beside me. Put yourself on this rock. When my Glory passes by, I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I’ve passed by. Then I’ll take my hand away and you’ll see my back. But you won’t see my face.”

Exercise: Turn and face the other direction! Often we are only aware of God’s presence in hindsight. We don’t experience him directly but can say later – God was in that, though I didn’t see it at the time… Have you had times you would say that? When? What do you now feel you know of God that you didn’t at the time?

God through journey

At the end of the book of Job, after enormous suffering and isolations and being misunderstood and misrepresented, Job says in Ch 42
‘My ears had heard about you.
But now my own eyes have seen you.’
On what basis did he say this? He had had no revelation, no answers to why his life had taken such a downward turn, no justice. Our only conclusion can be that in the trials of his experience, he had come, eventually, to a knowledge of God’s reality beyond any conception he had had of God before.

David Adam quotes WB Yeats:
“God guard me from the thoughts men think
In the mind alone;
He that sings a lasting song
Thinks in a marrow-bone”

Adam says that knowledge of something is rarely best communicated by words alone, but by a passion or love for the subject. Knowledge transcends facts. ‘Bone-marrow is responsible for creating red blood cells, platelets and white blood cells – approximately 500 billion per day in all- and can be viewed as the very source of life. For Yeats, thinking in the marrow-bone reflects living life in all its fullness. It is holistic, involving not only facts but also reality and our relation to it. Facts alone do not translate into real knowledge: facts can be written down and memorised, but what we know with our whole being cannot.’

Exercise: Have a walk and mull over these ideas: Think, to what degree has the journey our lives have taken – our experiences – led to a reshaping of who God is and what our faith means? What might it mean to know God with our whole being – in the marrow-bone?

God through love

In ‘The Cloud of unknowing’, the author says, “To our intellect God is evermore incomprehensible… By our love he may be gotten and holden: by thought never.”

John 4:12 ‘No one has ever seen God. But if we love one another, God lives in us. His love is made complete in us.’

Exercise: Look at the palm of your hand. The kingdom of God is within us – it is held in our very hands. God inhabits the gaps between and within our very atoms. God’s love is within us. God is not beyond us, not far off and we know God better every time we love. How can we love better in this coming week?

We then returned to the bandstand to pray for those who need to be encompassed by the kingdom of God, held in God’s love, to know and be known by their Creator Mother, Lover and Friend…

Finally we used Steve’s Pentecost Bread and wine words from last Pentecost as

God in bread and wine:

There are advantages to being 1,985 years old. I have always had some advantages even when they weren’t apparent. “The Bride of Christ” is what they called me. Really! And I was barely out of nappies then.
I have carried that with me though – in the difficult times. I have had to. Remember those dear Copts will you?
People ask what the secret is to a long life. I think they’re expecting me to keel over tomorrow. I always reply, “Taking a little wine” and they laugh! Not realising, I suppose, that the blood is that which gives everlasting life. Wine and a little bread.
I suppose that age lends a certain perspective. Highs and lows – leaven leavens unevenly. Some ground is stony. But we march still. Eyes fixed on the Bridegroom – he who laid down his life for us.
So take now the bread – for you it might be us, the body or his body. Let it nurture.
So take now the wine – for you it might be Happy Birthday wine, the wine of renewal and resurrection.
And so in our 1,986th year, let’s now go out with hope as our guide and with faith our firm foundation. May you and yours be entwined in the Trinitarian God. Amen.

And we finished with a blessing from St Augustine, quoted in David Adam’s book:

All shall be Amen and Alleluia.
We shall rest and we shall see.
We shall see and we shall know.
We shall know and we shall love.
We shall love and we shall praise.
Behold our end, which is no end.

Hoorah for searching and stretching faith but hoorah for ultimately knowing God beyond words, in the marrow-bone!