God Becoming God
We are God, stirring, stretching, coming to life, slowly waking up to what it might mean to live as God in the land. We are God with different ideas of what it might mean to be God. We are God figuring out what it is to be God, here and now, in the present moment of our lives. How would God do it, with no more resources than we have available to us, with no more power and control than we exercise within the events and circumstances of our lives? That is the problem of God, and, it is our problem. How do we live here, now, as God would live in our place?
There are no answers in the back of the book. There is no script, no formula, no list of rules to go by. God is not bound by a manual of operations or a Book of Order. God is like the wind, you know, that blows where it will. God makes it up as it goes along. God figures it out along the way. God has the soul of a jazz musician, the uninhibited freedom of movement of a small child dancing. “What works best?”, is God’s only concern. “What is needed, here, now?”, is the guiding question of God.
Of course, it is complicated. When one person’s good is another person’s bad, it’s a pickle. What do you do, then, even if you are God? It is not easy, sometimes, even if you are God. So, what do you do? Who knows? Who knows what ought to be done? Sometimes, there is no knowing. We live with the burden of the complete freedom of God, wondering what is best, what is needed. Wondering how we bring the good to bear upon, to life in, this situation, here, now. Not knowing. Stumbling our way into Godhood, into holiness. Leaving behind traces of the kingdom in the wake of our living.
God Unfolding, Emerging, Within Us
You have to admit that the idea of God becoming God has it all over the idea of God as immutably and irrevocably in charge of every little detail (like the number of hairs on our head). The God of the Bible is only a bigger, meaner us. In the Bible, God’s way of dealing with those who oppose God is to kill them. And, send them to hell. Where they will regret for all eternity opposing God. In the Bible, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart and then destroys the chariots and horsemen of Pharaoh. That’s the best God can do. Which is no better that anything we can do.
Jesus may talk about loving our enemies, but, by the Book of Revelation, it’s all forgotten, and we are back to God being the Killer of the Beast and all the Little Beasties. And, everyone is supposed to admire that God, and fawn all over that God, and spend their time in heaven singing praises to that God forever. But, that God is more of a monster than a god worthy of the name. There is nothing admirable about a God whose idea of justice is the destruction of those who don’t do it God’s way.
Jesus seems to catch on to a different way of being God in the world. The prodigal’s father is glad to welcome home the prodigal, and you get the idea that if the prodigal took off again, and came back again, for an infinite number of times, the father would still be there to welcome him home every time. The Samaritan helps the Jew without doing a reference check to see if the Jew deserved to be helped. Of course, the Jew did not deserve to be helped! This is a Samaritan doing the helping! No Jew could deserve being helped! The Jews and Samaritans despise each other. There is no such thing as a good, deserving Jew from the perspective of Samaritans (and vice versa)! Yet, there he goes, tending and caring for his enemy, without even a hint of a suggestion that his enemy start doing things like a Samaritan would do them.
Jesus talks about yeast in the dough, and salt in the soup, and light in the darkness, and seeds in the earth, as a way of suggesting that the way of the good, the way of God, is to become good, to become God, over time. That God is working within “the scene,” within the moment, within the circumstances of life, to transform and deliver, renew and redeem.
Of course, as I sometimes say, Jesus hadn’t been dead fifteen minutes before everything changed. What changed was that everyone thought about God the way they had always thought about God. Gone was the yeast in the dough idea of God and back was the fist in the clouds idea. Back was “do it the way we tell you to do it, or else!” Or else, there will be hell to pay. Somehow, I cannot imagine the prodigal’s father saying, “If you ever do anything like that again, there will be hell to pay!” You just cannot square the idea of the prodigal’s father with the idea of a vengeful, wrathful God requiring the death of Jesus and the belief of all the people in the redemptive power of the death of Jesus, “or else.” Yeast in the dough, or fist in the clouds? I think we have to choose which idea of God is going to be the operative idea of God, and everything, you might say, hangs on the choice.
The Work of God
The work of God, of being God, of becoming God, is the work of aligning our lives with the idea of the best we can imagine. Whose good is served by the good we serve? How good is a good that serves only our good? I don’t think we can do better than Jesus’ ideas about the foundation of community, and working to incorporate those ideas into our lives.
How do we love our neighbor as ourselves? How do we do unto others as we would have them do unto us? How do we love our enemies? How do we love one another? How do we live in ways that do right by ourselves and right by each other and right by all others? The work of God is to do it the way it ought to be done in every moment of life. The work of God is to envision the good and do it in every moment of life. The work of God is to take Jesus’ image of the sheep and the goats and make it the foundation of our life in the world.
The upshot of the parable is that we have to do right by ALL of the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters. And, that the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters have to do right by all of the rest of the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters: “In as much as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it unto me.” No one is off the hook here, and no one can slip by any of us unnoticed, unseen, uncared for. We are here to do right by ourselves, one another, and all others. That’s our life’s work. We would have to be God to get it done. There you are.
Who are we going to “throw in with”? That’s as important as knowing what to do. Who are we going to be with? Whose company are we going to keep? Who is the right kind of company? Who is good for us? Being good company, and being in good company, are the two essential requirements for life. We cannot hope to be alive, in the fullest, deepest, best sense of the term, without being good company and without being in good company. Do we even know what “good company” means? We had better be figuring it out. There is no future worth having without it.