Ephesians 1. 15-23
God isn’t up high and far away,
but down to earth and close at hand!
The title of the movie is Inherit the Wind. Same name as the play. It was released in 1960 in living black-and-white. Spencer Tracy starred. And if you’ve never seen it, you might have caught one of the thousands – if not tens of thousands – of high school drama productions, over the decades. Inherit the Wind. It’s a fictional account of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial in Dayton, TN, nearly a century ago. It was one of the first courtroom battles here in America. Creation v Evolution.
Matthew Harrison Brady was the anti-evolution, pro-creation populist prosecutor. Henry Drummond – played by Spencer Tracy – was the big-city, pro-science defender. And E.K. Hornbeck was a reporter from The Baltimore Sun. Cynical. Sarcastic. In the last scene of the movie, Drummond and Hornbeck are back in the courtroom. The trial’s over. Brady has died. Drummond’s picking up the pieces of the trial. A bible. A book by Darwin. As he does, he and Hornbeck talk about Brady. “A bible-beating bunco artist.” That’s what the reporter calls him. And Henry Drummond responds with an absolutely unforgettable line. Contradicting the reporter, respecting a colleague, Drummond says, “A giant once lived in that body. But Matt Brady got lost. Because he was looking for God too high up and too far away.”
“A giant once lived in that body.
But Matt Brady got lost.
Because he was looking for God too high up and too far away.”
I rented the movie, again, this week, just to hear that line. I don’t think I ever read one, ever heard another, quite like it. One of a kind. Once in a lifetime. You might, even, remember reading or hearing something like it that I’ve written and said. I’ve borrowed it a time or two. Looking for god too high up and too far away. Looking for god too high up and too far away and getting lost along the way.
Well, the passage from Ephesians, this week, conjured up the line, once again. “The Father of glory …” “At his right hand …” “In the heavenly places …” It’s all up high! All far away! I read the words and I thought, “Here we go, again!’ Looking for god in all the wrong places! Looking for god where we assume, where we expect, god to be! Losing ourselves in the process. We get so caught up – so carried away – in the there and then, that we, totally touch with the here and the now.
We forget that the gospel isn’t the story of a god who floats among the stars, but of one who became – who becomes – human! Just like us! It’s the story of the creator becoming a creature! Living with us! Living among us! Over the past eight months, when we weren’t able to be together, we might have – unintentionally – put things behind us. Things that are important. That matter. That are full of meaning. God’s not up high! God’s not far away! But god is down-to-earth and close-at-hand! God’s not above us. God’s between us! When we were together, we held god in the palm of our hands! When we were together, we balanced god on our fingertips! Back then, the kingdom and the power and the glory wasn’t in the multitudes, in the crowds. It was in the two and the three.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory …” That’s how Matthew begins the parable. “When the Son of Man comes and all the angels with him …” We hear those words and naturally, automatically, We look up! Up above the clouds! Up beyond the stars! And the entire time, Jesus is there. Kneeling before us. Washing our feet. And we miss it! Miss is because we look for god too high up and too far away. We miss it because we’re looking for god where god isn’t! But if that’s the way we get lost, then we get found by looking in the other direction! Looking for god in the natural! Looking for god in the ordinary! Looking for god where we least expect god to be!
“God is in his heaven and all’s right with the world!” At least, that’s what the poet says. Truth is, god isn’t in heaven. God’s right here! God is here in god’s world! And that’s what makes it right! Look around! This is heaven! Not just because it’s Colorado! This is the Temple! This is god’s dwelling place! And we can’t get any closer to god than we are at this very moment! We can’t get any closer to god than god is to us! Right here! Right now! God’s here in the words I speak and in the words you hear! Changing us! Transforming us! Making us who and what we’ve always been! That’s the reason for the season-to-come! The stable? The manger? It’s not there because there weren’t enough rooms. It’s there because it wasn’t right, it wasn’t fitting, for god to be passing through. God didn’t visit. God came – comes – to stay! To make this place god’s home, forever!
This time of year, we’re not the ones going over the river and through the woods! God is! Coming here! Coming to be with us! Nothing can stop! Nothing can slow! Not high water! Not hell! God isn’t up there! God’s right here! Not locked away inside my heart! Inside yours! But here in the space between us! Even in the cyberspace between us! To see you, I have to look through god! To see me, you have to do the same! That’s why we all look like Jesus! That’s why Jesus looks like us! It’s god who brings us together! It’s god who keeps us together! The cross! The love! The tie that binds! Not our best wishes! Not our good intentions! Not our thoughts and our prayers! But god! Spirit! Father! Son! Doing what no amount of Kumbaya can.
So, take a look around you! Not just at the mountains and the water and the trees. But at those you love! At those who love you! This is the kingdom! This is the power, the glory! The hope to which you’ve been called! The riches of the Father’s inheritance! As it has always been! Right from the start! From the very beginning! Matt Brady got lost, so it’s said, because he looked for god too high up and too far away. Time after time, we make the same mistake! This, my friends, isn’t simply a footstool for god. This is a pillow! A pillow on which god dreams dreams!