Compared with the amount of knowledge on the subject, I know little about alcohol. I know there are a variety of beers, ciders, wine, and spirits; ales, lagers, red wine, white wine, port, whiskey, rum – and I could list more! However I don’t know how they’re manufactured – ok, I’ve travelled through wineries and a distillery but don’t test me on what I learnt! I might read the occasional pamphlet or book on them, listen to the ‘expert’, marvel at the price range but, truth to tell, I’m pretty sure I can’t tell the difference between a ‘super good’ glass of something (will that be determined by the price?) and the ‘garden variety’ version. It probably boils down to ‘hmmm … that tastes good!’. I don’t have a knowledgeable palette but I can tell you what I like!
It’s much the same with music. I know nothing about ori-ental music. But I’ve listened to lots of music and I think I have fairly broad musical tastes (though yodelling doesn’t do much for me – and I’m not a fan of discordant music). I know some of the history of music. I know some of the cultural icons in musicology – and what Lutheran doesn’t know something of J S Bach? I know I have a preference for music in the minor key. Why do I know this? Because it resonates with me personally – I simply like it!
Of course I can always learn more about drinks and music – and literature and culture (and I need lots of lessons about modern or abstract art – which I almost never ‘get’). The same goes for science and medicine and history – I know a little and there’s so much more to learn. That’s what education is for – as well as growing up and maturing. Ok, I’ve grown to like olives and liver but I’m still not a fan of tripe! Nev-ertheless I get by – my life is what it is because I simply ‘like’ certain things – maybe the taste or texture – or maybe it is something that intellectually feels right to me.
I know something about religions. I can always learn more! I often talk about the supermarket of religions because it does appear that there are a variety of religions all competing for a share of the market. They all have deities and sacred spaces and worship and people functioning in some lead-ership or intermediary role. All religions have ethics. They also have adherents some of whom will be ‘good examples’ of the religion while others (many others?) will be less so. Are all religions equal and people just choose the one that suits them – that they like? Some religions say ‘yes’; others ‘definitely not’.
If the gods in all the religions were lined up in some sort of Colosseum for gladiatorial bouts, who would be victorious? I’m pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t be on the winners’ podium. While he is mysteri-ous at times, does powerful miracles occasionally, his death and resurrection and discipleship call of ‘pick up your cross and follow me’ doesn’t present a life I’d like to live.
And yet Jesus is appealing because of his humility and his claims to be light, bread, the Good Shep-herd, the Resurrection and the Life, the Son of God and we can even come to understand the para-dox that with him, living is no longer about getting as much as we can now while we try and avoid death but is rather getting death out of the way first and then living. Jesus’ cross and empty tomb, Baptism, Holy Communion, and his Word all have associations with death – his death and ours – and because he is alive again, life with him never ends. Jesus points to God’s faithfulness to us, to God’s grace and forgiveness towards us and this creates a reality – a truth – a promise – to take
with us through each day – no matter what it brings.
The fact that the world hasn’t been able to put Jesus back into his grave is also compelling. This story of God with us – Immanuel – whether riding a donkey or coming to us in bread and wine – or when we consider any aspect about him draws us to a God who is not remote – who can and does relate to us. And so this apparently weak God strangely makes the most sense to me. We haven’t chosen a God we like; instead with Jesus we learn that God comes to us to relate to us personally. And that’s a life’s journey in which we can always keep learning more … and even come to like!