One of the things I have finally come to embrace about Christianity is that we have a messy God. The God proclaimed by historic orthodox Christianity does not stand apart from the world in splendid, perfect, detached isolation. Instead we recognise a God who is inherently relational: God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and yet is not three gods, but one God in three persons. The trinity is, like us, messy, contradictory, and unfathomable. It transcends mere reason and breaks neat taxonomic categories. God is Spirit, and yet became Flesh; Jesus Christ, so the accepted creeds of the universal church teach us, is both fully human and fully divine.
Heaven and earth are not separate. There is no Platonic or Gnostic division between matter and spirit, body and soul. In Christ, all is knitted together. All the mess, the tangle, the confusion of our existence finds its answer in a God who is like us, because we are made in His image.
All this is a great and wonderful mystery. I don’t get it. I can’t fully understand it. But I have come to love it and to find a certain hope and comfort in it: in our mess, our confusion, our self-alienation, our yearning for relationality and community and wholeness, this God who is like us is incarnationally present with us – even in stuff like red wine and bits of bread.
That’s not all. The messiness continues. In a world of darkness, sorrow and pain the Kingdom of God is already amongst us and within us; God is present, working, in little acts of justice, mercy and charity carried out by human hands. God is present with and amongst humanity. We bear the divine image and we are co-builders through our lives of a divine order.
And all of this is leading somewhere. In the same way as the trinity and the incarnation represent the marriage of heaven and earth, so the who arc of the biblical story doesn’t point to a gospel of ‘going to heaven when you die’, as if this world were irredeemably evil and could only be escaped from; no, it points to the final union, the consummation of the ‘marriage supper of the lamb’, when in the new heaven and the new earth every tear is wiped away.
Isn’t that amazing? Doesn’t that blow your little cotton socks off?