Monday, August 25, 2008

Notes From Above Ground

“One thing I do know. I was blind, but now I see!”

The response the man makes to the Pharisees in John 9, when faced with their accusations and disbelief.

The subject of the homily this Sunday at the Gymnasium Church, which. Well. It’s where I still find Philip Larkin loitering about. Doubting. Sneering. Being clever. Being his bookish and snooty self. Another of my specific congress.

Plastic chairs. People mostly in their twenties and thirties. Children. A few gray-hairs like Pat and me. Not many.

And the singing. The songs are mostly new to me. But as I sing one. As I learn the new song by sort of singing it and listening to it. I find my throat tightening. My eyes a little leaky. A flutter in the diaphragm like the wings of two mourning doves flying to the peak of my house roof.

I feel God reach into my chest and massage my heart. Caress my heart. And it’s lovely how he does this. This is what I come here for. This is what I love God for.

A fine homily. A remarkable idea. Let’s say what we know from personal experience. This Jesus thing is a personal thing. A personal and intimate knowledge thing. It isn’t a matter of. Oh. Theology. Theology, for want of a better term.

As far as I can tell, he doesn’t so much want to be studied. Oh, that isn’t to say he doesn’t want us to understand him. But so much of theology seems to want to perfect him. Or the Bible. One or the other or both. Seems to want to carve up the words we have from him into pieces we can use to assemble anything we like and call that God.

As far as I can tell, he wants to be worshiped. He wants to be loved. Understood, yes. Understood in part as an outcome of worship. Of love.

It’s a matter of what happens to us personally—what happens to him personally—that he’s most interested in. It’s a matter of how our lives (his and our lives) have changed. How the world has been lit up. Has been opened up. Contrary to what we might have thought. Contrary to Philip Larkin’s snide remarks. Contrary to the rants of the underground man. Contrary to the other evidence and logic one might accumulate and present. Contrary to the rules. Contrary to ordinary expectation.

A blind man is made to see. An underground man is brought above ground. These things happen. They happen more often than most of us understand. I think they happen in one fashion or another millions of times a day. Billions of times a day. All over the world.

What more are we asked to do than to say what we know? Tell the truth, he says to us. Tell the world the truth about you and me. Then follow. You’ll figure it out as we go. Listen. I’ll help. Keep your eyes and your ears open. Forget everything you think you know except the one thing I have asked. Love me. Love one another. Focus your mind and your heart on this. Everything else is secondary.

So as we’re talking about the Gymnasium Church afterward, Pat and I decide. Well. We’re tired of our little church tour. It wears one out. It wears one down like a long walk in a strange dark place. Like a bad long dream. Let’s go to this Gymnasium Church awhile. Let’s see what may happen there.

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