My head has been in a bit of a spin today. It started with a vague feeling of I don't-know-whatness at Morning Prayer and it hasn't gone away. I'm not ill or stressed; it's just that there's a thought trying to fly.
It may come from having had my notions of order challenged and being invited to embrace the conflict (see Monday's post and comments) but I seem to be more than usually aware of the bigness of God and the smallness of humanity.
It is also a time where many are discussing the future of the church, especially the Church of England, in the light of the TV programme Rev (tonight 9.00 p.m) and also a few articles being Facebooked and Twittered (some quite old) about the decline in the church. Others are renewing their spleen-venting over disestablishment and literal understandings of the Bible. I'm with them on both counts so they may as well save their spleens when in my company.
In Psalm 76 this morning we were invited to ponder a view of God that was enormous:
You are resplendent with light,
more majestic than mountains rich with game.
Valiant men lie plundered,
they sleep their last sleep;
not one of the warriors
can lift his hands.
At your rebuke, O God of Jacob,
both horse and chariot lie still.
This human view of God's majesty was that creatures were attractive because they were food and defeat in battle was all part of God's mighty, all-encompassing command and control. When he says die, you die.
Some say that they dislike the bloodthirsty God of the Old Testament. In fact it is the people who were bloodthirsty. The psalmist suggests that God is bigger than all this.
The Old Testament contains a lot of history and, as we all know, history is often written by the winners.
Then we started the Book of Zephaniah. He prophesied during the reign of Josiah. Josiah is always lauded as a good king who preserved Israel's sacred religious traditions and instituted reforms on that basis. He listened to the prophets and obeyed them. But the words of Zephaniah fly in the face of that. Here's a guy who proclaims death and judgement while things are improving and being renewed. It looks as if Josiah and he may have shared a great-grandfather (King Hezekiah) so that may be how Zephaniah managed to avoid becoming lion food. He is not mentioned in the parallel accounts in the historical books of 2 Kings or 2 Chronicles.
Then we had that little passage in Matthew where Jesus gets his and Peter's temple tax paid by doing a magic trick with a fish. It smacks of folk-tale to me, an invention of Matthew to keep Jews paying their taxes after the fall of Jerusalem.
We (there were four of us at Morning Prayer) often have a short discussion about the readings but today we sat in silence and I enjoyed my own discussion.
During a pastoral prayer meeting a little later I pondered on the simple faith of some of those prayers. At one point I jotted this down, addressed to those who rubbish the church:
The God you mock, the one who intervenes from time to time, occasionally doing our will, is too small. The God I think I recognise, and know, always intervenes and my prayers are a way of seeing my unique issues in an eternal context.
This thought, not quite fully-formed enough to write down but what-the-hell, wants to suggest that in getting to grasp the fullness of the wonder of God, literalism can be a real hindrance. Sometimes it doesn't mean quite what it appears to says. That doesn't mean it ain't truth. We may need to search harder to find what is. None of these passages, experiences or events will reveal its meaning alone.