The great Labour spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, once interrupted someone who was interviewing Tony Blair and asking him about his religious beliefs. He stopped the interviewer in his tracks he said rather caustically “we don’t do God”.
It was meant to indicate that the subject of God was no go area, it was meant to be a slap down of the questioner: that a British Prime Minister couldn’t, shouldn’t and wouldn’t speak about God. It might be alright to ask an American president or other national leaders such a question, but he thought it wasn’t a fit or appropriate thing for a prime Minister in the United Kingdom to comment.
It could be argued that this comment, made in 2003, couldn’t really be made in 2017 because at the top of everyone’s agenda is the subject of God. No news bulletin is complete without the scrutiny of those who do acts of violence, claiming it to be a religious act. No politician’s life story would be complete without knowing where they stand on the subject of God. No covering of world affairs is complete without noting pilgrimages or feasts that are taking place, world religious leaders visits to countries, or bombings of some religious sites. The subject of God and religion and person belief is at the top of the pile, the front of the queue, it is the hot topic of the day
Alistair Cambell thought he was on safe ground in 2003 saying we don’t do God. He would be on less sure ground in 2017 and he wouldn’t be sure now whether he was speaking for others or whether he was speaking simply for himself.
This day is the feast when we are talking about God. It is the day when we think about what God is, who God is and if there is any possibility at all of knowing God.
The Old Testament is full of a brazen assertion, a bold belief, a startling fact that people believed that God had spoken to them, chosen them and was interested in them. That cocksure belief is on every page, that caste iron conviction is everywhere, that God had spoken to them. Spoken to Abraham, to Noah, to Moses, to the prophets, to the kings. He had revealed himself to them.
We see it in that first reading, God passes in some vague and unknown form, it doesn’t tell us in which form. It tells us that God calls out to Moses and tell him his name. How astonishing this is! God who cannot be known, God who is beyond everything, God who made the universe, now chooses in this moment to speak, to let himself be known. Known to Moses: man who had been a murderer, known to a man who is head of a rag tag group of former slaves, known to a leader of men and women who would be homeless and landless tribes.
Not only does he let himself be known but he reveals his name. To know someone’s name in Semitic culture was to have a relationship with them. No one knows God’s name, because; no one can posses God. But now here God allows himself to be known. There is a communication and relationship, a bond, a covenant that now exists between this people and God.
In the new testament they also believe that they have come to know the name of God. But they now know him in a different way, where as before he comes in some hidden way now he is revealed and known in the flesh, in the person and in the face of Jesus. They know him who is unknowable through this divine showing of himself, they know him who is mightier that the greatest mountains, the largest seas, the furthest spread of the universe, in the face of Jesus, in the voice of Jesus, in the actions of Jesus, in the life of Jesu.
There seems to me certain rules of thumb here. We might want to know God, and many people do, but you can only know God if he chooses to show himself, reveal himself and want to be known. This is the fundamental thing in the Judaic and Christian scriptures that God has chosen to let himself be known, he has entered into a relationship, he has revealed and shown himself. He has given us his name (a name above all names) , he has shown how he acts, his primary will and intention and desire is to love, his desire is that all should be saved and none be lost. His will is that his own son should go into the world not that the world might be condemned but that it should be saved.
The first rule of thumb is that he can only be known when its him who allows himself to be shown, to be known and to speak in the hearts of people. The second rule of thumb is that he does the choosing, he draws, he invites.
If the scripture tells us anything today that the door is wide open, thrown wide open. God gives us his son, shows us his son, reveals us to us in his son, so that all might be saved and none might be lost.
He shows us his cards, he tells us what he is about, he reveals his hand – he is full of mercy and love. The light of his face is full of tenderness and kindness.
This is the God that we come to know, to love and to be connected to.
Alistair Campbell says – we don’t do God. We could say different -we do God. God is in our lives. God is in our thoughts. God is in the way we live our lives. God is in the highs and lows of our lives. God is in our waking thoughts, God is with us when we rest. God is in our concerns. In our lives the name of God is honoured, loved and revered.