God is not, first of all, a formula, a dogma, a creedal statement, or a metaphysics that demands our assent. God is a flow of living relationships, a trinity, a family of life that we can enter, taste, breathe within, and let flow through us.
“God is love,” scripture says, “and whoever abides in love abides in God and God abides in him or her.” Too often, we miss what that means because we tend to romanticize love. We’ve all heard this passage read at weddings; appropriate surely, but, within that circumstance, all too-misunderstood for it is pictured as romantic love, as falling-in-love, wonderful and holy though this may be. Thus, at a wedding, we can easily miss the sense of what this text means.
It might best be rendered this way: “God is community, family, parish, friendship, hospitality and whoever abides in these abides in God and God abides in him or her.” God is a trinity, a flow of relationships among persons. If this is true, and scripture assures us that it is, then the realities of dealing with each other in community, at the dinner-table, over a bottle of wine or an argument, not to mention the simple giving and receiving of hospitality are not a pure, secular experiences but the stuff of church, the place where the life of God flows through us.
This has huge consequences for how we should understand religious experience: Among other things, it means that God is more domestic than monastic (monks will be the first to tell you that). It means too, that in coming to know God, the dinner-table is more important than the theology classroom, the practice of grateful hospitality is more important than the practice of right dogma, and meeting with others to pray as a community can give us something that long hours in private meditation (or, indeed, long years spent absent from church-life) cannot.
… Finally, importantly, it tells us that, since God is inside of community, we should be there too, if we wish to go to heaven. Simply put, we can’t go to hell, if we stick close to family, community, and parish.
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