Bumping into God
The title of this month’s letter comes from a book by Dave Tomlinson (who was until he retired in July last year a Vicar in London). The book’s title is unusual: How to be a bad Christian . . . and a better human being, but that shouldn’t mislead you. Its content is actually mostly very wise and about expanding our experience of faith beyond the institutionalisation that happens all too easily in the Church of England and other denominations.
He writes: “We all have moments when we glimpse something beyond the purely material world, when we ‘bump into God’. But we don’t necessarily think of them as religious or spiritual experiences.” He goes on to list the sort of things he means, the sacred moments that make us stop and reflect. These are things like receiving a smile from a child, gazing at the stars on a clear night, holding the hand of a love one as they die, hearing a blackbird sing.
Some of these moments are joyful; some are hard. But all can be God-moments. And sadly in our busy world, we so often miss the encounters with God because we don’t make space for them. We don’t linger long enough in contemplation or spend enough time be-ing rather than do-ing.
These moments draw us to the greater reality beyond our human sphere that people of faith believe is God. Faith is a way of interpreting the world that helps us to make sense of those experiences of something other beyond us.
In the Church of England and many other Churches we use simple everyday things to remind us of God inside the church – bread and wine at holy communion, water at baptism. These sacraments which are outward signs of God’s inner work and grace among us.
But everyday things can speak of God outside the confines of a church service and ceremony too. God is all around us.
Tomlinson ends his chapter with these words, which for me sum up what bumping into God is all about. “Enjoy receiving Communion, but celebrate Christ’s presence in every meal, every human interaction. ‘Break open any loaf, taste any glass of wine, you’ll find me there. Look not the eye of friend or stranger alike, you will see me looking back at you.’
Emmanuel – a title we hear used for Christ at Christmas – means God with us. It’s not just one for the festive season.
With best wishes