A Creative Transforming Non-interventionist God…

Posted: March 7, 2023 in Uncategorized

A Creative Transforming Non-interventionist God…

Its possible that in attending a Baptism you might have heard the words “Water is everything. Water is life…” They are often said as a way of focusing on the active, dynamic symbol of water. As does the story we read from the storyteller/mystic we call John. And if we can remember for just a moment that we are in the middle of the season called Lent, which begins with stories around a time in the desert, a place of little to no water, we might find today’s story a lovely juxtaposition. Dryness, drought, climate change and wilderness, temptation and an arid place and time. And we know how precious water is.

And when it comes to the nature of flow, the dynamics of flow the river is an interesting symbol the invites us to explore the nature of life as a journey. Numerous travelers, from the early explorers through to present day beginners have perished for lack of water as well as underestimating its living dynamic reality. No water, no life. Too much water and no life. Water and life go together. To survive in the arid desert or wilderness is to know the sources of moisture and how to tap into the water table and in the lush green freshness of the flowing river is to know its power and its perpetual nature.

What we should never do is underestimate it as something that must be conquered. That is a mistake, we humans have made since the enlightenment at least. For the early people of human social political and economic development the earth could be a hostile and barren place and they could never dream of co-operating with it in the face of oppression and empire.

When we look closely at many indigenous peoples, we find they treasured the earth and cooperated with it rather than conquer it and they often memorized every watering hole. Especially so in the dry inland places.

From one generation to the next, and we know from the Australian Aboriginal that they sang songs which were like maps of their territory.  And in these song-maps the precious water holes were prominent. They treasured water. It meant life.

To put the importance of understanding the nature and purpose of water we might read a little about flow and movement. A River of water is always flowing, it always appears to be a linear movement going in one direction but whirlpools and eddy’s suggest otherwise. What is it that water becomes when it becomes a whirlpool? What is it saying about the nature of water and its importance?

Democritus said “The cause of coming-into-being of all things is the vortex.” (a mass of fluid (such as a liquid) with a whirling or circular motion that tends to form a cavity or vacuum in the center of the circle and to draw toward this cavity or vacuum bodies subject to its action) Isaac Newton said “I do not define … motion, as being well known at all” McGilchrist says “Movement is reality itself.” Schelling’s description of causative chains is that “the individual successions of causes and effects, (that deceive us with the illusion of a mechanism) (left hemisphere bias)  disappear, being infinitely small straight lines in the universal curvature of the organism, in which the world itself runs continually onward.” We see the water as linear flow when water in its ability to become vortex shows us that life is more vortex like than linear in other words the symbol becomes more real than what we thought? In its flow, its motion, its dynamic nature it becomes real life. Life is never what it seems because it is always dynamic evolving and progressing and can be mistaken as linear when it might not be so.

Another reflection in this light. ‘Water spiralling down a drain’ … This point is worth pausing on. Because the water going down a drain is the best possible demonstration of a moving, ever-changing, ever-evolving, indivisible motion: a vortex. It is never, except artificially, frozen into a coherent image; and it is a constantly self-reforming asymmetrical structure.

Now a quick look at the collection of stories told by John. They shows that he tells several stories using water. Water turned into wine. Water to wash disciple’s feet. Jesus walking on water. And of course, there are all those exciting fishing stories, which only someone with the name of Hay might claim are the really, good bits! (Mr Hay is a friend some of you might know as an avid fisherman)

Today’s story of a Samaritan woman Jesus met at a well, belongs in this collection. In this story John has Jesus asking the woman for a drink of water. It is said that this conversation between the two, is the longest of any Jesus is supposed to have had with anyone. Traditionally, the substance of the story is said to be about a ‘liberal’ Jesus talking to a close to a non-mechanistic Samaritan is another name for Northern Jew (One whose heritage is post Kingdom of Israel as opposed to Judean Jew) And, so this line of interpretation goes, Jesus issues a call to her to: “clean up her act, get right with God, and join the Jesus team to preach God’s word of forgiveness and love”.  (McKinney. PST Web site, 2008)

But as many scholars have pointed out, this and similar interpretations are an awful misreading of an important story. However staying with the story… with the help of Amy-Jill Levine, the Jewish new testament scholar:

Rick Marshall, suggests that: Taking John’s image of a well and the rising up of the water says; “Who knows where (the water) comes from.  But we drink it and go on living our lives…  That’s how the creative, transforming power of God is:  Who knows where it comes from, but it sustains us and we go on living our lives.  We are called to trust the ‘Living Water’.” (Rick Marshall. P&F Web site, 2005) I might suggest we are being called to trust in the ’Almost’, the “not yet but about to be’ is more akin to the vortex like experience we call life. This power of God we call life sustains us and we go on living our lives. “We experience the creating, transforming power of ‘Love’ routinely, quietly moving through life, our life.” I wonder if this is also what the storyteller, we call John had in mind, in a context of plurality, of civilization change). Post Greek and changing Roman thought, theology and social and political change and when he told the story of Jesus asking a woman for a drink.

A reflection I can confirm is nice to hear and found in the following story. The story goes that the preacher was a great success.  Thousands came to learn wisdom from him. then they got the wisdom, they stopped coming to his sermons. And the preacher smiled contentedly. For he had attained his purpose, which was to bow out as quickly as possible for he knew in his heart that he was only offering people what they already had, if they would only open their eyes and see.  (Anthony de Mello)

Remember, here as well the description of the logician: ‘Having in fact left the curve of his thought, to follow straight along a tangent, he has become exterior to himself. He returns to himself when he gets back to intuition.’ He finds God, he recognizes Jesus for the first time.

That and the above story suggests it seems that the above is how the transforming present-ness of Creativity God or serendipitous Creativity God or ‘Almost’ God is at work. It sustains us as we live our lives, quietly moving through life, our life. Like a vortex hiding in the image of linearity and yet whirlpool like so that we might live life to the full, love wastefully, and be all that we can be.  (John S Spong) Amen.

Anthony de Mello, A. The Song of the Bird. 10th edition. India: J. Chryssavgis. The Desert is Alive. Melbourne. JBCE, 1990.

Levine, A-J. The Misunderstood Jew. The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus. New York. HarperOne, 2006.

McGilchrist, Iain . The Matter With Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World (p. 1445). Perspectiva Press. Kindle Edition.


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