I believe in the resurrection. That the God of the universe reduced Himself to man-size, died, and rose again, conquering death and bringing us life to the full. Yet over Christmas, I went home forgetting to take enough underwear and had to hope that Santa would have had an exceptional level of foresight.
On one hand, I am promised every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1). I’m adopted as a son and loved by a magnificent God. Yet the traffic lights are broken and people are edging their cars uncertainly over the crossing, while Apache, by the Sugar Hill Gang, plays on the radio.
Woody Allen once wrote in his widely-read private journal: “How can I believe in God when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?” My pithy answer to that used to be: “It’s a neat way to get you to bow.”
But I wouldn’t say that to the Woodster’s face.
The proper word for this is, of course, bathos – the coalition of sublime and ridiculous. It’s what most of us would call life, followed by a resigned sigh.
How can we experience something as epic as a relationship with God, and also scratch our eyebrows, oggle the attractive body parts of strangers and get our shoelaces wet in puddles? Some of you, particularly those who wear zip-up boots, don’t have these problems. But then maybe there are others who feel this way?
Is God as concerned about bruised knees and good handwriting as we are?
Jesus appeared to the disciples after his death. The disciples sat around a fire that Jesus had built, and one of them counted the fish – 153 of them. Was he expecting it to be a significant number? “What does it mean that 153 is a multiple of 17?” Meanwhile, the other disciples were probably thinking: ‘This is the Lord, the Son of God. What on earth is he doing here, cooking me a fish breakfast?’
I can imagine the disciples trying to begin a question, but being stumped. Their mouths silently form the letter W, like Martin Freeman about to act. The disciples rolled words around their mouths, “Wh-”, “W”, “How–” but no one dared ask who he was. They knew.
This is my pious God. This is my God that demands holiness. This is my wrathful-at-sin God. He’s barbecuing fish! He’s risen and He’s giving us a taste of the simple, understated service of life to the full. Imagine if the producers of High School Musical had set this scene – it would have been bright, loud and over-the-top. While that has its place (…) I love the way Jesus handles this, sitting quietly with his disciples at dawn, allowing their wonder to grow and grow. I feel a lot of joy in this. I hope you do too.
The divine runs side by side with the so-called menial. A spilt mug of Roibos; having to fish the wrong type of plastic out of the recycling bin; praying; writing to-do lists (often confused with praying, but definitely distinct from); singing like never before…again…slightly flat; throwing away a mouldy satsuma. Everything has its lesson in lowering our pride, teaching us love, and making us hold out hope for heaven. Heaven will be a paradise of bathos, where the sublime is heightened and the ridiculous can only be more ridiculous as a result, and where every day we will laugh at the question: “What on earth am I doing here?”
Here we are discussing the resurrection of Jesus and eternal life but in the last few seconds you may have imitated Martin Freeman by forming your mouth into the letter W. I know I have.