“No particular religion matters, niether ours nor yours. But I want to tell you that something has happened that matters, something that judges you and me, your religion and my religion. A New Creation has occurred, a New Being has appeared; and we are all asked to participate in it… Don’t compare your religion and our religion, your rites and our rites, your prophets and our prophets… All of this is of no avail. We want only to show you something we have seen and to tell you something we have heard… that here and there in the world and now and then in ourselves is a New Creation, usually hidden, but sometimes manifest, and certainly manifest in Jesus who is called the Christ.” (Paul Tillich, The New Being (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1955), pp. 17-18 passim. )
Here and there. Now and then. Before you can expect to be taken seriously when you speak about such grand subjects like the interruption of God into a world as plain as ours, you must stare at very small questions until they feel very heavy in your hands. It’s easy to make boxes in which to contain your prey; capturing the prey however is an entirely different issue altogether. Sweeping declarations can help make sense of things – once you’ve entered through the door of faith – but how can you possibly say anything to those outside? It’s the Babel scene again, dropping your tools, grunting and whistling to your neighbor, trying to describe what exactly happened. At times like that there is wisdom in just pointing and screaming.
Here and there. Now and then. When God interrupted Moses’ idyllic life, he introduced himself as “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…” Not “The God of Love, Truth and Beauty…” nor something like “The God of Kant, Heidegger and Sartre…” nor even “The One God, Creator of the Universe, The Most Soveriegn King…” All of these descriptions would make perfect sense to we categorizers and explainers. A God who fits into the scheme of things… No, instead he refers to himself in relationship with real people in real history with real stories to tell.
Here and there. Now and then. Sometimes I think real hard about hard things. Sometimes I read books that fit things together into a recognizable whole. There is nothing wrong with that. But if I’m wanting to stir my soul, to approach that place (That Place!), I don’t profit by conjuring up words, drawing pictures, or howling like a savage. I have to remember. Remember those places, here and there, and those times, now and then, when the hum drum plodding of daily life came to a screeching halt and the air became wet with eternity.
Perhaps I disagree with Tillich that rites and religions don’t matter. Sometimes they do matter a great deal. But I have to confess that they don’t matter in the same way. When it’s just me and him, without the confused context of others agendas, only one thing matters – that something happened: something happened to the world, something happened to me.