Christ and the Hiddenness of God

LleuThis began as a conversation, and has nagged at me for the past week, so to do it justice, I thought it ought to be put down in some form, then perhaps it will go away, however, such thoughts rarely do.  The conversation was about talking about ‘God’ and the statement, ‘but you believe in God’.  I like such statements, for they open up a discussion that is otherwise closed.  The assumption is that everyone has the same understanding of what that means.  Even the philosopher Don Cupitt could say, I think, that he believes in god.  What he means by that might not be quite so apparent.  So my response to that statement, was to suggest that the person asking had their own understanding of God but that didn’t mean it was the same as mine. I mentioned Don Cupitt, as a book with the title: Christ and the hiddenness of God came to mind when musing over these things and looking at today’s readings which all deal with a particular understanding of God, Christ and Jesus.  Don Cupitt is a noted Philosopher of Religion and one time Dean of Emmanuel College.  His book has been sitting on my bookshelf for far too long and remains sadly, mostly unread.  The only saving grace, (for the book, not me) is that it is not alone.  The cover shows detail from Rembrandt’s Christ at Emmaus.  The image shows two travellers walking along talking together whilst a figure behind is following, head bowed, hands clasped with a rather pensive expression.  Perhaps the book was on my shelf at one time to fill out the space, or to give visitors the impression that I was interested in such subjects and had read widely.  Actually I think I just liked the title in the bookshop and I have to say, it does have a little something about it…  Christ and the hiddenness of God.  It rather succinctly describes our modern situation in life.  In the late 60’s Don Cupitt was still largely able to say that he would subscribe to what you might call mainstream theological writing in the quest for objectivity.  But by the time my edition was published in 1985 he had as one of his books published in 1980 attests:  “Taken leave of God”.  I would like to suggest a title change for this decade, “The hiddenness of God and Christ.” Largely our language is incapable of articulating neither a rational understanding of God nor Christ.  Some will argue it was never able to explain a rational notion of God and ought not be contemplated, indeed even the expression ‘God exists’ poses rather fundamental questions about what we mean by both God and existence!  Yet here we are on a Sunday morning singing hymns, offering prayers and sharing bread and wine.  Belief in a god is offered as a faith decision and you choose to believe it or not, it is one choice amongst a myriad of other choices to be made.  Either that or we continue with the ritual just in case, because of habit, for social reasons, or to continue the tradition that has been given to us whilst either struggling with the whole concept or blindly ignoring the nagging questions.   In fact it has been shown that church (with a small c) can operate without reference to God at all.  There was a quasi ‘church’ which met regularly each week, sang Uplifting songs, heard readings from various authors, including the bible, invited someone to give a motivating, humorous, moral and thoughtful talk, took part in a ritual sharing of food and then were sent off, out into next week.  I could go on, however, I ought to get to the point.  Our readings today betray something from a biblical understanding of how in these days we can say anything about God at all.  I would draw your attention to the image at the top, with relation to the title Christ and the hiddenness of God, or the Hiddenness of God and Christ.  The photograph is of a church roof.  Hanging where you might expect a cross or crucifix is a piece of sculpture by welsh artist John Meirion Morris.  His sculptures were carefully set up and displayed in this church for two weeks.  In the background Tavener’s ‘The lamb’ played.  It was quite an extraordinary experience, one on which I reflected at the time, that it captured me in a little something.  This, for me, is how we move from the abstract to the real, through seeking out experiences which move us and challenge us.  Words can only take us so far, then our expression fails us as we try to speak about things which are unable to be spoken in a real sense, and so we have writings such as Paul’s letter to the Colossians (1. 15-28)  attempting to express something about God in Christ who was found in Jesus.  And in Genesis Abraham offers hospitality to three strangers, the text tells us that the Lord was visiting, but the experience was a physical one.  In Luke Mary and Martha actually get to meet with Jesus.  Since there is little chance of meeting Jesus, the challenge is to experience life in all its fullness in order that whatever it is, of which we cannot speak, is able to get through the myopia that is modern life!