Epiphany: ‘Almost’ The Life-Force in Every-Day Life

Posted: December 28, 2020 in Uncategorized

John 1:1-14

Epiphany: ‘Almost” The Life-Force in Every-Day Life.

Sometimes I label myself as an ‘Anatheist’ which for me means that I am someone who is no longer satisfied that Theism or Atheism are concepts that point to a helpful way of understanding God in this contemporary age, The path I want to take to understand who what or if God is occupies my mind.  I have come to a number of conclusions and the first is to affirm the stance that God is and that naming God, with the name God is no longer adequate. It has led me to a place where the name ‘Almost’ for God is a possible way of moving on from what to me seems to be the prison of the name God. God is more than this and those of us who use Words like Force, source and Spirit or Energy are indicative of the need to find emphasis on the is-ness, or the living evolutionary dynamic that we understand life to be. This my title for today ‘Almost’ or freed from the prison of existence to become timeless, formless and living and as Life force this means in every moment of that which we call life, not as mentor, or judge or even helper but rather the very dynamic life-throb of all things.

When I think about this and articulate them I find myself excited about what it means to be human and to explore the possibilities of consciousness. For me they paint a vibrant picture of what a lot of the current God-talk could be about and what the Season of Christmas is all about and when it comes to Epiphany it is about the discovery for oneself what this does for living one’s life. One sees that love does change everything and that our world could be a place of honesty, integrity and where peaceful adventuring takes place.

And here we are in our liturgical or lectionary journey. We have moved through the 12 days of the Festival of Christmas into the Season of Epiphany. Traditionally, Epiphany has been tied to the visit of the international Wise Ones. But it is much broader than that.
Epiphany is also about celebrating the experience of God’s present-ness in all things.  From the daily tasks of parenting, working, relaxing, to remarkable experiences of insight and wonder… And the mystery of the universe: why there is anything at all, rather than nothing (Goodenough 1998:11).

In Religious Naturalism/Process Theology terms, in the Season of Epiphany, we open ourselves to divine omni-presence and divine omni-activity. In my attempt at theology the ‘Almost’ is the divine experience of real human living which is within ambiguity, uncertainty, chance unexpectedness which I encapsulate in the word serendipity reflecting the randomness of the arrival of the cosmic world and the randomness of human existence. Without to serendipity of life there is no life as we know it and ‘Almost’ depicts this event as that which John D Caputo says is not existence but rather insistence. Naming seems to assist with existence and thus becomes like us and insistence seems to assist with a calling to life. God insists and life responds. Rex Hunt calls this Creativity God and I call it Serendipitous creating, an ‘Almost’. Almost encourages a response and our existence as human is a response. In the presence of Almost or serendipitous creating we are gently persuaded in every encounter to live this wonderful life.

One could say that the God of John the storyteller, while more sophisticated theologically than by either Luke or Matthew or Mark, is dynamic and relational. In the God of John the storyteller we repeatedly encounter a multi-moving, acting God. A ‘verb’ rather than a ‘noun’. Here we have the acknowledgement that language is what we use to create our world.

This has encouraged Catholic feminist theologian Mary Daly to ask:  Why must ‘God’ be a noun?  Why not a verb – the most active and dynamic of all?  …The anthropomorphic symbols for God may be intended to convey personality, but they fail to convey that God is Be-ing and not a being. It can then be said that Epiphany unveils and celebrates the present-ness of this lively, innovative Creativity in everyday life. God or “Almost’ is the life-throb of all things. Almost in language suggests the certainty of an arrival, the random reality of that arrival and the dynamic yet to be and promise in that arrival. It also suggests potential where there is the discovery of the already there and here, the cyclical, linear, reality of naming a timelessness.

Borrowing again from Rex Hunt’s work is the story of Luke Skywalker, the young super hero of Star Wars, who is putting on his flight gear for the climactic battle with the Death Star that threatens to destroy the last remains of a brave rebel force.

His somewhat cynical friend, Han Solo, who is packing a space freighter to escape before the uneven battle, pauses for a moment and then says with a kind of awkward voice,
‘May the Force be with you!’

This phrase has become well know and used ever since the movie come out some years ago now and used in many circumstances. May the Force be with you, assumes there is a force and that it can be known by the recipient as if there is a touching on a truth which we in the church have either lost or have never known. Maybe be we have trapped it in the naming of it as God the noun, whereas we might have seen it as an event, a moving complex dynamic living event. A verb as opposed to a noun. A sense of the dynamic that is not seen or heard in most of the traditional words in addressing God or the Sacred.

The storyteller John uses dynamic and relational (be they anthropomorphic) words and images.  And in general terms so too does the whole of the biblical tradition:
bringing, gathering, consoling, leading, understanding, granting, scattering, choosing, forgiving. Maybe the western obsession with reason and literalism has taken from the words the living nature of the divine and made it something we want to own, and claim as opposed to that which enlivens. In these multiple dynamic actions, God is always affirming, and in all these many ways, creation is always the subject of God’s great demonstrations of affection. As Loving God changes everything and Almost depicts this as a living dynamic event. Creation itself.

But returning to our text its is so that we have become a bit stuck when we hear the English translation, ‘word’. In the beginning was the Word… The Word was with God…
The Word was made…

In English, ‘word’ has often been given the meaning of sounds or its representation in letters put together for oral or written communication. Printed word. Radio word. But the Hebrew word for ‘word’ is ‘dabhar’ which, according to Matthew Fox and others, means divine creative energy (Fox 1995). The storied word. The word that gave birth. Those of you who are right-brain thinkers will probably have already resonated with this and made a connection. For the Hebrew ‘dabhar’ is about the creative, the imaginative, the heart, the feeling.

And this divine creative energy is more than just a concept. Epiphany also reminds us that the ‘word’ is made flesh. It lives among us. Moves within and between and among all things. Inspiring us to think and sing and dance with integrity and historical honesty.

As we begin a new year together, and in the spirit of this divine creative mystery, we call God and I call ‘Almost’ there are some observations that were first inspired by ‘Jesus Seminar’ theologian, the late Robert Funk, which I wish to echo and own (FourthR).

I like many others am encouraged by those ordinary Christians who are unwilling to continue to indulge in theological double-talk, by preferring to address the real questions that perplex all of us…

• I am embarrassed by any pronouncement that does no more than reaffirm the absolute superiority of the Christian religion over all other forms of religious expression, and even refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of other Christian churches…

• I am worried by the failure of the scholarship of other religions in an age where learned people do not counter unfounded claims to truth and domain.

• I am alarmed by those who endorse, in the name of Christianity, the misunderstanding of religious experience called fundamentalism and literalism (MFallon), which leads ultimately to intolerance, the unfettered use of legislation, and war to enforce its convictions…

And I endorse the truly energetic creative word of God, ‘dabhar’, which will not be imprisoned, will not be locked up. And maybe even allow the word ‘Almost’ to be a credible extension in the use of language to depict this dynamic relational creating event that is our human life.

Our universe (or Creation, to use the traditional) is as ongoing as we are. As vast as our experience of it.  Ursula Goodenough writes: “Emergence is inherent in everything that is alive, allowing our yearning for supernatural miracles to be subsumed by our joy in the countless miracles that surround us” (Goodenough 1998:30).

Our task, I would suggest, like my friend Rex Hunt has argued is to get out of its way enough that we might be filled with it and go about our task of healing, celebrating, and co-creating. As for the new year, we can only wish for peace:  in the world, and in our lives. See! ‘Almost’ (God) is the life-throb of all things. Amen.

Fallon, M. 1993. Fundamentalism. A Misunderstanding of Religious Experience. Eastwood. Parish Ministry Publications.
Fox, M. 1995. Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality. New York. Harper & Row.
Goodenough, U. 1998. The Sacred Depths of Nature. New York. Oxford University Press.


Doug Lendrum 2020 ‘Almost’, A Memoir -Otherwise Publishing

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