This week my brothers Tim and Jon came for a visit. Tim all the way from Washington D.C. and Jon from Portland, Oregon. I always thought my two brothers were some pretty cool guys, but they shot to epic status in the eyes of our son this past week. You see Jon and Tim, or Uncle Jon and Uncle Awesome, as they like to be called by our kids, created treasure hunts for our pirate-obsessed little boy. They wrote out clues that rhyme, hid them all over the house, and together they spent literally hours with our son finding the clues and eventually the buried treasure. The only breaks they would take were for the occasional sword-fight, which just gave Micah indescribable joy, as we don’t usually do much sword fighting (or treasure hunting) around the house…
It’s a simple picture, I offer you, of two uncles leaving the concerns of their stressful lives and having a little fun with their nephew…however it is but one more opportunity for finding God, the joy, the peace, the elation, the creativity, the re-creativity of God, alive and well in the everyday—in the laughter and excitement of children and men alike.
Paul stands in front of the Areopagus, the City Hall of Athens, and says, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way.” Imagine St. Paul standing on West Broadway, in front of our courthouse looking at the great buildings of our city and saying, “San Diegans, I see how extremely religious you are in every way.”
Paul makes such a fascinating move here in the book of Acts, he honors the religious impulses of the people (the religious nature that is imbedded into our genes – might not always be toward the church, but all of us have objects of worship) and then seeks to give a new name and give voice to what they are experiencing. He seeks to take their passion, to honor their enthusiasm, but to check it and actually name it as holy, to refocus it.
And to proclaim that it is God in whom we live and move and have our being, our God, who does not live in shrines made by human hands.
That is, God is so deeply imbedded into our everyday – this is the glory of Easter. Easter is a season for celebrating God’s breaking out onto the world. Easter precedes Pentecost, the birth of the church.
First is Easter (God out there), then Pentecost (the people giving voice and name to God out there). In other words, church is not where God is created and where God lives, where God is domesticated and kept safe. Rather church is where God’s people give voice to God’s redemptive work in the world.
God is alive and well in ways and things we might not have expected – like treasure hunts/swordfights with your uncles.
Like greeting a stranger on the trolley, reveling in the latest novel or TV show, following the Padres through another season, playing in the swimming pool, working in the garden, getting stranded in the airport, passing the cornbread – the list is as diverse as it is endless. And not just in cheerful or routine moments – God is deeply present in the painful times too.
The Roschke family lost our dog this week. We had to put Oscar down. And I don’t quite know how to articulate it, but I know, I felt, I believe that God was so deeply imbedded in our painful experience of saying good-bye to Oscar, holding him as he took his final breaths and his final treat, as they gave him the shot. God was so deeply present as I wept uncontrollably over his perfectly still body. God was so deeply imbedded in the care that we’ve continued to receive from friends and family, and from the good people at the Humane Society. There was immense holiness in that sorrow. (And in the freedom from shame to feel this deeply about a dog.)
God is present in everyday things in ways that we can’t expect or control …and the Apostles and Evangelists of the Bible help us give voice to that.
Jesus says in John that the world has trouble seeing this ever-present Spirit. Maybe too many in this world have been taught not to see God in the everyday things, I mean really everyday things. Maybe the church is responsible for this mishap – attempting to give God limited access through golden chalices and glorious architecture, long flowing robes, and manicured sermons. Or maybe the world, and we too, just “can’t see or believe” in the Spirit’s omnipresence in this day or this time in our lives.
But whatever the reason we may struggle to recognize God in the everyday, Jesus’ words rise to the surface again this morning and hover over us all:
“I promise not to leave you orphaned,” Jesus says. I promise not to leave you stuck in worshipping something that has no meaning, no substance. I promise not to abandon you to the emptiness of this world, to the shrines made by human hands. But rather I promise to fill your life and your world (every aspect of it) with my love and my presence, for I am the one in whom you live and move and have your being.
God has given us the eyes of faith to see this love and presence. We just have to be reminded and invited again to open our eyes of faith, to see what the world can’t see, that God is so deeply present in love.
There is a character in the Harry Potter books called the Dementor. And the Dementor is this ghost-like creature that can reach into a person and suck out their life-spirit, their joy, their creativity and their hope. To see the impact of the Dementor in the Harry Potter films is just eerie. The victim is left with a blank expression and stare, not dead but devoid of any “spark”.
When tragedy or fear or pain strikes, we realize that the Dementor is not just a figment of a great novelist’s imagination. The Dementor can suck the life-spirit out of us too, sometimes even just through the everyday routines of our lives. We can so easily be “Demented” into believing that God is not present in this world, that all we have in this life is what we can see: shines made by human hands, the art and imagination of mere mortals.
When you feel the Dementor lurking in your life, sisters and brother in Christ, contemplate the wonder of a tree, which is but one example of the art and imagination of the Divine…AND hear again the words of Jesus from the Gospel of John:
“I will give you an advocate [to stand up for you to the Dementors of this world], an advocate to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because the world neither sees nor knows her [actually a feminine word]. You know her because she abides with you, and she will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming with you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live, you also will live.”