(published in the Abingdon 2014 Creative Preaching Annual)
To The Unknown…
Most of the time, we are taught to fear You. Not knowing means we cannot prepare, cannot control, cannot manipulate, and those limitations mean we are afraid of what You might do and especially what You might require of us. We like to know things. Our intellects are practiced and ready to rationalize nearly anything, as long as it fits on a linear path and follows a defined plan.
But You defy our intellects. You remain shrouded in mystery even as You surround us and support us and seek us. Your breath is our breath, but we cannot figure out how. Our life is Your life, but we cannot explain the mechanism that makes it so. We long for connection to something greater, to You, and yet we tell ourselves it cannot be. So we build our altars, read books crammed with big words, and push aside hope because it is impractical.
Still You keep coming around, swirling and pushing and pulling and calling and inspiring and providing in ways we cannot understand. We look for the who/what/where/when/why/how, and You tell us a story. We ask for step-by-step instructions in what to do next and how to please You, and You offer us instead Your very self, made flesh to live our story alongside us. We seek a list of good deeds or appropriate sacrifices to get what we want, and You remind us that You, not we, are God, and nothing we can do will change Your grace or Your providence.
Perhaps we are right to fear the Unknown. Or perhaps what we really fear is what You mean for our lives. If it’s true, if our life, movement, and existence is held by You, is in You, then we cannot be separated, we cannot be cut off, we cannot truly be lost. No wonder You demand everything of us—changed hearts and lives to go with our changed minds. No wonder You offer so much of Yourself to us—even life, suffering, death, and more. While we have been busy creating rules for how You can work, You have been busy loving us into life.
Perhaps You are not scary after all. And perhaps You are also not completely Unknown—and so we seek, and grope, and hope to find you “nearer than our breathing, closer than hands and feet” (Alfred Tennyson, "The Higher Pantheism" from The Holy Grail and Other Poems [London: Strahan, 1870]).