[This is a summary of a recent talk I gave at a church in Michigan]
When was the last time you were surprised at church? When was the last time you walked through these doors and had no idea what to expect? For most of us it has been a very long time. Religion fears surprise, which is very sad, for God is all about surprise.
Moses asks God’s Name at the Burning Bush. God says, “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh” which most English Bibles mistakenly translate as “I am what I am.” “Ehyeh” means “I will be” not “I am.” God says to Moses, “You cannot know My Name. Something named is fixed, static, unchanging. I am none of these. I will be whatever I will be and there is no way to know Me in advance. All you can do is meet Me in the moment.”
You cannot know God because knowing is in the past while God is in the present. You cannot name God because names are fixed and God is fluid. You cannot worship God because worship is aimed at the known while God is unknown. Religion isn’t about God but about an idea of God fixed in your mind, conditioned by creed, and managed by theologians, while God, “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh,” is wild, free, and unconditioned. You know god-the-idea in the church and the classroom. You meet God-the-reality in the wilderness and the whirlwind.
Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples are the opposite of the wilderness. They are tame places where idols are polished but where God is rarely present. This is not the church’s fault. The church is what you make it, and you don’t want to be surprised. Jacob said, “God is in this place and I didn’t know it.” Why didn’t he know it? Because he was trapped in what he did know, and what he did know left no room for God.
Religion is the opposite of Unknowing. Religion is all about knowing, of taking refuge in fixed ideas and the armies of believers that uphold and enforce them. Religion documents the I Am and freezes it into the What Was leaving is distracted from the I Will Be that is the true God.
If you want to meet God in this place you must make it a wild place, a place of surprise.
If you want to meet God in this place you must enter with your mind empty of idols and ideas, and open to what will be.
If you want to meet God in this place you must abandon who you imagine you are and see what you come to be.
If you want to meet God in this place you must drop all you know, enter naked and see what is rather than what was.
How do you do this? If there were a “how” the result would not be surprise, but just another preprogrammed idea. There is no how. There is no mechanism or method for realizing God or being surprised. There is just you, here and now in the wildness of your life. When you are just with that surprise is all there is.