OH MY GOD!
God is a stranger to the conversation of most people. Except as a meaninglessly insulting expletive when a saucepan is dropped or an unmarried daughter announces her pregnancy "Oh, my God!"
So what a shock, recently, to visit someone who talked about God. Who brought the subject up! How unusual and daring. I was amazed. Conversation in a country town is usually about the weather, the state of the country, what is happening to standards of morality, politeness, good neighbourliness. It is about the Church, modern services, and reasons for not going to church. It is about crashing bores like Paul Keating and John Howard, about sheep, crops and hay making. It is never ever about God.
God, like our sex life, we keep secret from the Rector. He is very pleased, I might say, about the secrecy of sex lives, but he has a strange yearning, now and then, to talk about God. (Freaky fellow).
People don't talk much of God in conversation because, for the most part, they have stopped looking for him. He has been put on one side. At some stage in the lives of everyone except an idiot, God is a burning issue. We reach for a bible and even plough through it as far as the second chapter of Leviticus. We peep through church doors, or even bravely enter, and, when no one is looking, perhaps even venture to pray. At such times, if we have friends we can trust, we do try talking about God, but when he is not easily attained, reached, appropriated, we turn away to more tangible goals - wife, family, home, car, golf handicap - and leave the God question on one side until, on our death beds, there is a last mad wondering about, or scrabble after him. Unless, wisely, if tamely, we hope simply for the peace of annihilation and an end uncomplicated by resurrection, accountability and God.
This is a great pity, because although God is intangible and unattainable, even on a credit card, the journey towards him, and an openness and fascination with him, the struggle to know him and love him and to subject one's life and will to him, adds a dimension to life that tangible materialistic goals simply cannot. To think and talk about God, to grapple with faith, to reach out for the Divine, is fascinating. To interpret events in the light of the God hypothesis, to see the world from the perspective of a Cross, to appreciate that the hands which hold us in existence are pierced with unimaginable nails, to realise that sacrificial love moves in some strange way the stars and galaxies, to be opened up to the grandeur of God, the splendour, loveliness and glory of God....O my God!
Oh my God! That is what it is all about. Not an expletive, but rather a shout of wonder, of awe, of praise. The man in the street dismisses the Christian as a dull and dreary, hymn-singing hypocrite. The fool! The unutterable dullard and buffoon. He would call a pearl a pebble, heaven hell. Like a pornographer he would dismiss the loveliness of love and sex as mere grunts, lust and sweat! It is important for a parish priest never to allow the man in the street to set the agenda, to reduce Christianity in conversation to mere church and church-going. We must not let him tempt us into defending that lot. Instead, now and then, when it is appropriate or possible, we need to knock him speechless with talk of God. Of the joy and excitement of being on a journey towards God and Beauty and Love and Truth; towards Jerusalem, Zion, the City of God; of catching in prayer a glimpse of his beauty, in a poem an intimation of his glory, in a flower a breath of his Spirit and peace, in sacrifice and service a measure of identification and oneness with him, in silence the frisson of his reality and presence....
If we cannot sometimes talk like this it is probably because, like the man in the street, we have put God on one side and settled for material and attainable goals, like filling mere pews, or increasing the collection. How dreary! It is time, if so, to talk God to friend or parishioner and to set out once more on the wonderful journey towards him. We might think it doesn't matter. that we will meet God face to face either way in the end. True enough, but there is the world of difference between an "Oh my God!" of horror and an "Oh my God!" of consummation, love and delight!
Andrew Neaum 1995