Reading today: Psalm 65, John 6:15-40
Remember Richard Rohr. He says, “All language about God is necessarily symbolic and figurative. Actually all language is metaphorical. Words are never the thing itself; they can only point toward the thing, which is exactly why “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14). As James Finley, a CAC core faculty member, often says, “Language is in service of the unsayable.” When it comes to comprehending God and the great mysteries of love and death, knowing has to be balanced by unknowing. Words can only point a finger toward the moon; they are not the moon or even its light. They are that by which we begin to see the moon and its light.”
Jesus often taught in parables. He used symbols and examples like “shepherd and sheep” and “vine and branches.” He did not mean He was actually a “cornerstone” but that even though rejected by the religious leaders (builders), He would be foundational to everything we believe. Metaphor is essential in trying to wrap our little brains around the vast and marvelous mysteries of God.
The challenge then, or at least one of them, is to distinguish between the language of fact and the language of faith, to decipher what is actual and what is allegorical. And apparently Jesus trusts us to do that or He would not have spoken to us in such figurative language. When our son Jacob was little he was the kid of a thousand questions. On the way to school every morning we had this conversation, “Daddy, did God make trees?” “Yes,” I would respond with great patience and kindness. “Daddy, did God make stars?” “Yes,” a little les patience. “Daddy, did God make elephants?” “Yes Jacob, God made everything.” Ah ha, he had me in his trap. “Daddy, did God make traffic lights?” I’m arguing creation theory with a 5 year old. “Jacob, God made men smart and they made traffic lights.”
God made everything is not factual language. It is faith language. It presupposes a heart understanding that God is far bigger than anything we can imagine and EVERYTHING has its origin in Him, even if it was assembled in a factory in Wallawalla, Michigan.
So, Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life.” And the crowd, listening with self-centered, literal ears say, “I gotta get me some of that.” But Jesus, speaking the language of the heart says, “I am saying I am the essence of all life. The source of nourishment in all things. Spiritual. Physical. Emotional. It all comes from Me. Just like it all comes from My Father.” (Another metaphor.)
Here’s the lesson for today, whether I am reading John 3:16 or studying the nature of aerodynamics, whether I am watching The Shack or a sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico, I am learning something about God. Everything, all language, is metaphorical. It is not capable of, nor meant to portray ALL there is to know about the Creator of the Universe. We can only, with our frail thinking caps, get bits and pieces and try to put them together as best as our human imaginations will allow. That means I am encountering the Divine every minute of every day, when I am having my devotions and reading some whacky story about some guy’s grandkids, or when I am sitting at a traffic light that was assembled in a factory in Wallawalla, Michigan. So, go learn something about Jesus today, maybe when you eat a piece of bread.