I listened to a podcast this week by Common Thread Church (it’s the church I’d go to if I lived slightly nearer the USA!) They’re on an incredible journey to discover the common thread of the divine which runs throughout all of history. I won’t do it justice but this is a snippet of their thoughts this week…they discussed the idea that we can’t actually think about God, that “God is a cloud of unknowing”…a mind bending concept but let’s go with it for now:
“God on a throne out there in heaven is a story, a story that doesn’t capture God.
God here and now among us, is a story, it’s a story that does not capture God.
All we have are stories to imagine God…we can’t, with any kind of certainty think of God, or speak of God, so all we have are stories but we use stories because stories point us towards spiritual experience, and spiritual experience is profoundly and deeply enriching of the human being, it makes us better people.”*
So how do we grasp concepts of God, how do we encounter spiritual experiences that enrich our souls?
Which is interesting because I was already thinking about incarnation. ‘The embodying in flesh of a deity, spirit or quality’…this idea that God became known as a human so that humanity could know more of God.
Incarnation is the concept we generally apply to Jesus, a man who lived just over 2000 ago, who is believed by many to be God incarnate; the physical, human representation of the higher power or greater consciousness that existed before time. The one of which we can’t really speak…and the one of which John tried to encapsulate in his poetic prose at the start of his writing:
“The true light that shines
was coming into the world.
The Word was in the world,
but no one knew him
though God had made the world
with his Word….
…The Word became
a human being
and lived here with us.
We saw his true glory,
the glory of the only Son
of the Father.
From him all the kindness
and all the truth of God
have come down to us.”**
The true light, that greater consciousness physically manifested itself in the world, ‘the word’ (as we talked about last week) already present but yet not seen, not known…so this word, this spirit, this abstract concept love, light, life took on human form and lived with us and because of that we can now see the magnificence, beauty, truth and kindness of that greater consciousness, something which otherwise would have just remained abstract and unreal.
Yet it goes so much further than that because incarnation is something we’re invited to participate in ourselves, this idea that we would take on the form of a specific quality in order to share in the world of another; to be present, to be there alongside, to know and be known, to be able to demonstrate grace to others and know the truth of life beyond our own; that’s what it is to love, to be love in human form.
Which means that whatever your belief about “god” taking on human form and making his dwelling among us, the concept is actually mind-blowingly simple because it’s something that happens everyday.
The Jesus story is, as Richard Rohr would describe, a blueprint for all of humanity…a blueprint; ‘an early plan or design that explains how something might be achieved’. So, there is this plan at work to “save” humanity, not from some devil or vengeful God character but from itself, and the blueprint demonstrates how that greater consciousness has a plan to redeem us from all the hate, hurt, competition, corruption, misconstrued power that we inflict on ourselves and each other.
To follow the blueprint means that we too become love incarnate; to choose to love despite the difficulty, to choose love even though it’s not what we would “naturally do” and to go beyond who we are and choose to bring joy, peace and hope to others. To follow the plan is to choose humility, to value the least, to turn our measures of success and importance upside down, inside out and to choose to love, when we do that, we take that abstract word “love” and we personify, embody, manifest love in the world, which is what John suggests Jesus did.
Which also means that we take that “story” of God and we tell a story that is present here and now in who we are and the way we act. We tell a story, and it will only ever be a story, of how the divine, that higher consciousness, the source of all life, ‘God” is at work in the world and how we experience his presence.
What if that’s incarnation, what if that’s what John was saying, what if that’s what Jesus showed and what if, as we reimagine our understanding of the God character we find there is a reality to these concepts that we otherwise can’t think about.
*. Common Thread Church Weekly Messages: Finding God in the Woods
** John 1, The Bible!