Yesterday evening I got this text from Jesus… “Heyy bro long time no c. R we still m8s. Church on Sunday wb gr8. C U there J” I know it’s from Jesus because there isn’t a log entry in the text history on my phone and no number to return the call to. So it must be from a supernatural source. I’m so close to proving the existence of God. A text from Jesus and the caller number withheld! Incidentally, now I know why Yhwh won’t have vowels in his name… it’s to cut down on the number of characters he uses to text. Mobile phones are the Second Coming, texting is the apotheosis of God and heaven is Carphone Warehouse writ large.
But Jesus is right, we have grown apart and it was good of him to get in touch. The truth is I have always liked him. He’s a friendly, sociable, peaceable sort of guy and always happy to help out. But I find him a little distant at times and not always as approachable as he was when we were younger… well, we all lead busy lives.
I think a lot of the problems that we had were over his friends. I went to Church a few times, chatted to a couple of people and started getting invites to house groups. But it was all a bit, well, uncomfortable. They didn’t drink, they didn’t swear and a couple of them had drop dead gorgeous wives and I wasn’t even supposed to notice. Trust me, three thousand years after Moses the capacity to covet remains undiminished! Anyway, I just didn’t fit in. For a while I eschewed Sunday afternoon football on TV for the opportunity to sing Psalms around someone’s house. But I found there was a limit to the number of times I could sing Lord though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil and pretend that I liked the tune, or even pretend that the lyrics fitted the tune. So gradually I returned to the comfort of my own sofa and the vicarious pleasures of Man Utd versus Liverpool, and of Bolton versus Blackburn. I don’t see it as giving in to temptation; more of a levelling of my own expectations.
In one sense my experience of Christianity was not unlike the Jets and the Sharks, a Westside Story without the music. Sinners and Hypocrites; I left the former to join the latter but returned again to those that I knew when I realised that holiness wasn’t really getting me what I wanted. Actually, it was getting in the way of what I wanted. The Sinners welcomed me back with open arms. Truth be told some of them didn’t even know I’d swapped teams, so wrapped up in their on lives. But clan loyalty is strong… Say it aloud, Sinner and Proud.
But what did I want, if not Psalms and prayers and sermons interrupting my day? The answer, I guess, is de-regulation, a low-impact belief that let me do what I wanted and then validated it using a curious blend of ill thought out logic and faith in something I couldn’t, or didn’t have to, relate to. Less of the Coptic, more of the Copout. It comes back to haunt me, this indolence, because despite my own well studied argument I seem to still expect a certain level of respect for my higher calling from others.
So, finally cut adrift, like a pilgrim without a destination, I asked myself a simple question… what do I believe in? I resisted for a while because the only answer I could come up with seemed so trivial it occurred to me I’d actually missed the point of my own question. But it wouldn’t go away and in the end I just gave up trying to manufacture an alternative. So, Jesus is on the road to Emmaus; Moses is on a mountain looking down upon Canaan; Yahweh is loading the dice in favour of a Semite tribe in their coming battle with the Moabites and Allah is preparing for an austere and terrifying Day of Judgment…
But I believe in Cissbury Ring an hour after sunrise, my dog fifty yards ahead of me trying, forlornly, to catch rabbits, sheep bleating in the paddocks below, grey-sky breaking to blue and the soft earth beneath my feet. I believe in chalk and flint, white bones of the ancestors, wind and rain, and the sacredness of this place.
What am I saying? That Nature is divine? Absolutely not, Nature is Nature… blood and bone and dung and death. There is tooth and claw savagery in the killing zones, but there is spirit as well in the world, pulsing through the rhythm of the seasons, in sunrise and sunset, in the sacrifice of the fish and the bird and in the love that passes between us. And it is greater than the sum of its parts. And it’s there, on Cissbury Ring, that I sense it.