The Hindu sacred texts contain an interesting call and response, separated in authorship by about 600 years.

The question comes from an older period of time, Who created the universe? And centuries later their spiritual descendants give an answer: Who created the universe. This isn’t the religious equivalent to an Abbot and Costello comedy routine. It is an affirmation into the ineffability of God. The name of God–the unitive power, the creative force and source of everything, is an enigma. God’s name is, in this case, not marked by certitude but by curiosity. It isn’t all that different actually in the Judeo-Christian tradition. By this time no one is astonished by the rather appalling answer Moses receives when he asks for the name of God. The tetragrammaton YHWH is old news to many. Of course, it may bear a little repetition. As the story goes, in ancient times, persons, beings, even gods, had secret names–a signifier from which they derived their power. Moses asks the name of the Liberating force at work behind the rescue of Israel in order to understand, to categorize, and ultimately to have summoning power over this mysterious being. Instead of being handed a phrase, as others before had, he is told that the name of God is “I am, that I am” or “I am what I will be” or put another way “I am whatever the hell I wish to be whenever I wish to be it and never you mind the details.” It is a divine kiss off. It is also congruent with the person of God. It is an affirmation that the Power is actually in the enigma itself. Anyone who has ever loved knows this to be the case. The draw is the lack of information. Here, in the form of a doe eyed beauty is a mystery more satisfying than Clue. With each hand squeeze or glance or kiss on the cheek the mystery becomes greater. The tantalizing magic works its best when it is only partially tasted. One couple

married for sixty some years, when asked the secret to their longevity, responded unanimously “Secrets” While I’m not exactly sure what they meant by that, I’m convinced that it has something to do with the fact that it is always the unfamiliar which beckons us in, invites us to be lost in curiosity and then blurry eyed wonder yielding to joy. The great wrench in all this mystery talk, for a Christian, seems to be the person of Jesus. The Incarnation is often a back handed response to the more or less esoteric Mystery of the Godhead. As the first century author of Collosians writes: “The mystery which had been kept hidden for generations and ages has now been revealed to us.” The argument goes something like this–we didn’t (couldn’t) know God before–He was an absolute vapor to us, a cloud and a fire. But NOW! Well, now we have Jesus and so everything is different. Part of me wants to affirm the great Scriptural critic Alan Friedman in simply pointing out that we don’t actually have Jesus anymore, do we? We are left in the rather precarious and awkward position of trying to differentiate ourselves from a group of people (the Jews) by saying to them: “The one you were waiting for has already come….and now we’re all waiting for him to come back again…” The irony is heavy. But I needn’t go that far–nor would I actually wish to. It’s as easy as acknowledging that if God came in the flesh, rather than making himself less mysterious–he just ratcheted up the game to the next level of unscrutability. Anyone who has spent more than a passing moment with another human being knows this. People are more complicated than ideas. Always. The single greatest unknowns that I know of are housed as persons. The Incarnation doesn’t diminish the reality of God as cryptic or incomprehensible, it illustrates it. Jesus is a living form of the name we were previously given, “I am what ever I wish to be…” God’s name as an inquiry is simply the reality that when we speak of

the Ultimate we are always ending our sentences with something of a question mark. We know we don’t know. It’s not to say that we ought not speak anything at all or stop pursuing, but rather we do so with the inexhaustible delight and sure certainty of surprise lurking over the horizon. God is an enigma wrapped in a secret shrouded in a mystery. We do well to unravel such a gift with this assurance close to our thoughts. Of course here is where I take a sidestep from from murky minded companions who blankly stare off into the Void, allowing it to stare back at them, paralyzing them with inaction. Truth is not a pathless land–it is a land filled with paths. The point isn’t to strike a pose and sit, it’s to get on the path and walk. Truth is relative–but only in so far as meaning that it is relational. You will never touch the reality of God as mystery unless you are willing to interact with God as mundane. This is the advise of one of Jesus’ early friends who says that you can’t possibly love God while ignoring your brother in need. God emerges as we are willing to engage what is around us. Live what you know. Honor, or hone yourself, to the truths you have–rather than speak of the relativeness or absolutes of truth. Laugh with those you love, and invite your enemies to the dinner table occasionally as well. Instead of offering sacrifices, going to church, saying the words, go make amends with the friend who is offended. Serve your finest food to your children instead of waiting for the people you wish to impress to come over. Use your china, (the stuff you’ve had waiting for one day and someday) to celebrate the loss of a pound or an improvement in a report card. Nourish yourself on whole food. Cheer on the householder, not only the renuciant. Go see a movie–a truly frivilous one with no redemptive value. Enjoy it. Drink too much occassionally, and then learn to go without also. Read a good book. Find what is enjoyable in your work. Weep when the occasion calls for it. Break your addictions to unreality or cotton candy concepts about life in the past or future. In other words. Live. The real meaning of God’s ineffable name is that we don’t know

which direction he’s coming from. Where will we glimpse him today? Who will he be? Which form will we find God incarnating in this moment? Yhwh–I am what I will be–comes to us in a million channels. Will we recognize him? Will we invite him to our table? Only a God who descends as a question is capable of such remarkable presence. In the many names of God–Amen and amen.  

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