a church encased in plastic


I love this image of Jesus.  I took the photo last… I don’t know when … while up in the attic of the National Cathedral in Washington DC.  It was in storage there, in a dusty corner next to some old boxes, perhaps filled with His saints.  The sculpture is a small mock-up of the larger stone carving of Jesus in Glory over the High Altar in the great nave of the National Cathedral.  I can imagine some guy in spats at a cathedral meeting of the Vestry, with a vest and a sticky-ended cigar trying to explain how the high altar will look, pointing to the sculpture-model with yellow fingers and mumbling a price-tag. Wrapped in plastic as it was, the plaster image stunned me and made me stop in my tracks while my companions kept moving, becoming echoes down gangplanks and around corners, leaving me alone with Jesus. Which I always like.  Except when I don’t.

Don’t you think, sometimes, we do this?  We wrap Jesus up in a nice clean (or dusty) package so as to keep it from any kind of change.  We humans love, love, love to domesticate God, describing him in detail, to accommodate a certain decade,  when God is in fact a mystery and the explanations exist only to employ theologians who would probably starve to death without their jobs, so God allows it even while smirking. I know I do this.  I get God the way I want God, like some supper hero doll with an assortment of clothes – a projection easy to see in clergy with all their ridiculous accessories. It’s sweet.  I mean really they are trying.  Wear this, hold that, move this in the form of a cross, pick up that with your right hand. Bow here.  Don’t fart. Genuflect. Repeat.

It’s hilarious. Except when it’s very sad.

But we only know about 3% of the cosmos right!?!?!.  And we know even less about God.  So this church we live in is just a construct – a style we have chosen like the way we decorate our homes – one person’s love of minimalism with chrome and glass, and another person’s love of the Victorian cacophony of jagged edges and cranberry with midnight blue.

We know that God made us in God’s image and yet we tend to spend our lives doing the same thing – well trying – making God into the image of God we want, or need, or think is socially acceptable, or frightens people into obedience, or keeps us feeling whatever we want to feel or the church wants us to feel.

But God is always changing, moving, undulating like nature does.  I am sure of this.  I can feel it when the sun sets. God is not carved and wrapped in cellophane to keep God fresh or dust-free. A mock-up miniature.  Nope.  God is less like a sculpture and more like a jungle, host to all sorts and conditions of live and lives – deaths and births – hopes and tragedies – and many, many changed minds.

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