Rev Raymond Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
ELCIC congregations are welcome to republish this material in their church publications. Please acknowledge its original publication by including the credit line:
Canada Lutheran, Volume 21, Issue 6.
More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.
Harold Bloom published Jesus and Yahweh1 in 2005. He described the one named Yahweh as a very human God, a divine human. He wrote: "Whether we encounter Yahweh early or late, we confront an exuberant personality and a character so complex that unravelling it is impossible." (pp. 5–6)
God reveals himself, but does not explain himself. God acts and exhibits characteristics, but does no self-analysis and does no self-explaining. God only exhibits a will to be and to do.
When Bloom reads the Christian scriptures, he finds such an image of God in the gospel of Mark. Mark's Jesus is a very human God, intent on an adventure, never saying who he really is, shushing those who want to call him the messiah and simply moving at a mad pace on a road that leads to his crucifixion. Even the crucifixion makes no sense except that enduring it is worth it to Jesus.
Mark's gospel has no nativity story, but I find Mark's picture of Jesus a description of those very "hopes and fears of all the years" that the poet wrote about in O Little Town of Bethlehem.
Without Jesus, we might never know that God is capable of self-expression in human form. Our humanity is sometimes frustratingly limited and flawed, but it is enough. Without Jesus, we might never know that being human is all God wants us to be. We are frustratingly sinful and sceptical, but it is enough. Without Jesus, we might never know that God is heard best when we are least assertive about our own desires. Faith grows out of trust.
The "hopes and fears" of the poet are not about God's inability to answer prayer, but about the diversity of human opinions concerning the answers God should be providing. So God-in-the-flesh starts out as a kid, learning to talk, think and experience limits like we all do, and out of that experience God creates a "body language" that we understand and can relate to.
Being the human voice of God is a hard road to walk. You can break your mom's heart and run afoul of the very authorities that teach you the basics of the faith.
Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too." Luke 2:34-35
At the same time, there will be those who hear God's voice in the tender compassionate tones of a loving human being; a dialogue partner, someone with whom to banter and think out loud. Not a theoretical or theological God, but a God you can taste, touch and smell.
1 Bloom, Harold, Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine, New York: Riverhead Books, 2005.
Bishop Raymond Schultz
Canada Lutheran, December 2006