Anonymous God

“God, then, is infinite and incomprehensible, and all that is comprehensible about Him is His infinity and incomprehensibility.”

St. John of Damascus

What?

“You cannot know God, but you have to know Him to know that.”

Fr. Thomas Hopko

When we first come into Alcoholics Anonymous we go to meetings, don’t drink in between, get a sponsor and begin to work The 12 Steps.

Steps 1-3

STEP 1 ~ We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

STEP 2 ~ Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

STEP 3 ~ Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

In the beginning of sobriety, all we understand about God is that He helps us quit drinking one day at a time. We are told that each morning we say ‘Please’ and each night we say ‘Thank You’. And yes, it works. However, it is a great leap of faith. You don’t know anything about God. You begin to meet God ‘with us’. God comes to the alcoholic.

Moses meets God for the first time.

Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the west end of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, Horeb. The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn’t burn up.

Moses said, “What’s going on here? I can’t believe this! Amazing! Why doesn’t the bush burn up?”

God saw that he had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

He said, “Yes? I’m right here!” 

God said, “Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground.”

Then he said, “I am the God of your father: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”

Moses hid his face, afraid to look at God…

Exodus 3:1-6 (The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson)

And when Moses asks God ‘Who are You? How do I describe You?

Then Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the People of Israel and I tell them, ‘The God of your fathers sent me to you’; and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What do I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I-AM-WHO-I-AM. Tell the People of Israel, ‘I-AM sent me to you.’ ”

God continued with Moses: “This is what you’re to say to the Israelites: ‘God, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob sent me to you.’ This has always been my name, and this is how I always will be known…

Exodus 3:13–15 (The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson)

Finally, a confused Moses who can’t take it any more, full of wonderful desperation, asks.

Moses said, “Please. Let me see your Glory.”

God said, “I will make my Goodness pass right in front of you; I’ll call out the name, God, right before you. I’ll treat well whomever I want to treat well and I’ll be kind to whomever I want to be kind.”

God continued, “But you may not see my face. No one can see me and live.”

God said, “Look, here is a place right beside me. Put yourself on this rock. When my Glory passes by, I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I’ve passed by. Then I’ll take my hand away and you’ll see my back. But you won’t see my face.”

Exodus 33:18–23 (The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson)

Moses begins to know this anonymous God.

Likewise, in the Gospels Jesus is never fully known.

Before The Resurrection.

About eight days after saying this, he climbed the mountain to pray, taking Peter, John, and James along. While he was in prayer, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became blinding white. At once two men were there talking with him. They turned out to be Moses and Elijah—and what a glorious appearance they made! They talked over his exodus, the one Jesus was about to complete in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Peter and those with him were slumped over in sleep. When they came to, rubbing their eyes, they saw Jesus in his glory and the two men standing with him. When Moses and Elijah had left, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, this is a great moment! Let’s build three memorials: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He blurted this out without thinking.

While he was babbling on like this, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them. As they found themselves buried in the cloud, they became deeply aware of God. Then there was a voice out of the cloud: “This is my Son, the Chosen! Listen to him.”

When the sound of the voice died away, they saw Jesus there alone. They were speechless. And they continued speechless, said not one thing to anyone during those days of what they had seen.

Luke 9:28–36 (The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson)

Was it that they would not or could not tell anyone what they had witnessed on the mountain?

After The Resurrection.

After she said this, she turned away and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn’t recognize him.
Jesus spoke to her, “Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?”
She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, “Mister, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him.” Jesus said, “Mary.”
Turning to face him, she said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” meaning “Teacher!”

John 20:14– 16 (The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson)

That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

He asked, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?”

He said, “What has happened?”

They said, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.”

Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?”

Luke 24:13–21 (The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson)

They returned to Jerusalem to talk it over with The Apostles who had seen Jesus too, but different. And then Jesus just appears out of nothing. He shows up again and again, suddenly different.

And my favorite.

After this, Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter announced, “I’m going fishing.”
The rest of them replied, “We’re going with you.” They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. When the sun came up, Jesus was standing on the beach, but they didn’t recognize him.
Jesus spoke to them: “Good morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?”
They answered, “No.”
He said, “Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens.”
They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren’t strong enough to pull it in.
Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Master!”
When Simon Peter realized that it was the Master, he threw on some clothes, for he was stripped for work, and dove into the sea. The other disciples came in by boat for they weren’t far from land, a hundred yards or so, pulling along the net full of fish. When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire laid, with fish and bread cooking on it.
Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.” Simon Peter joined them and pulled the net to shore—153 big fish! And even with all those fish, the net didn’t rip.
Jesus said, “Breakfast is ready.” Not one of the disciples dared ask, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Master.
Jesus then took the bread and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus had shown himself alive to the disciples since being raised from the dead.

John 21:1–14 (The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson)

Jesus made breakfast!

People are always misconceiving Jesus God. Then and now. It’s not our call to decide. We can’t figure Him out. We are finite. The Way, The Truth and The Life of Jesus is not subjective.

But we must begin somewhere with that Some One and walk the unknown road.

It took me over 3 years to work the first 3 Steps. Another 12 to come to Orthodoxy and begin all over again.

I may not know much about this Anonymous God of AA and Orthodoxy, but I know enough for today. Each day I learn and I grow. And over the years I have learned that God takes care of my alcoholism, my family, my finances, my past, my future and most importantly my spiritual life. God tells me day by day all I need to know, just for today.

“Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:

(a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.

(b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.

(c) That God could and would if He were sought.”

Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, Chapter 5

“Such, then, is our God: unknowable in his essence, yet known in his energies; beyond and above all that we can think or express, yet closer to us than our own heart.”

Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way

How God treats us is how we know Him.

My cleft in the rock is AA and Christian Orthodoxy.

My cloud on the mountain is AA and Christian Orthodoxy.

My road I walk is AA and Christian Orthodoxy.

“It is one thing to speak of God; it is quite another thing to know God.”

Silouan of Mount Athos (1866–1938)

Glory Horn

As we Pray, So we Believe, So we Live

I saw a bumper sticker the other day and it made me laugh.

‘HONK 40 Times if your Orthodox!”

If your Orthodox you know what this means.

In every (every!) Orthodox Prayerbook, Orthodox Liturgy, prayer service there are these little markings (x3) (x12) (x40) (x100) which mean say this, that number of times.

Repeat this repetition and then repeat it again.

Protestantism tends not to encourage this. Roman Catholicism does some. Orthodox can’t seem to help themselves. Why!

Well, it was the way of prayer in Judaism and The Early Church. Repetition remembers. Remembering brings forth. Behold! The repeating words of prayer become present, permanent and purposeful.

When you pray The Trisagion Prayers, The Called Upon comes calling. He designed prayer that way. As simple as that. As profound as that. As Glorious as that!

“It works if you work it”.

Alcoholics Anonymous does the same thing with all the sayings that are framed and hung on the walls and in hearts and minds. Eventually you come to realize what they mean and have done for you.

“Keep It Simple”

“But for the Grace of God”

“It works if you work it”

“One Day At a Time”

And we repeat the sayings time and time again. To ourselves and each other.

We have readings to start our meetings. Some read Chapter 5 ‘How It Works’ from The Big Book. It is our Symbol of Faith.

And always we say, we pray The Serenity Prayer.

“God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The Courage to change the things I can. And the Wisdom to know the difference.”

Regularity remembers. Welcomingly familiar. Home and safe.

And as my friend Randy starts The Lord’s Prayer: ‘Who made the stars and keeps us out of bars?’ God is transcendent and immanent. Creating the cosmos and me. Beyond all grasp and wonder and sitting right next to me. Prayer pulls our the chair for God.

To want to pray, is to pray. To pray is to learn to pray. To repeat prayers is to pray always and all ways. ‘It works if you work it.’

“One day, when Jesus had finished praying in a certain place, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.”

Luke 11:1

“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?”

Corrie Ten Boom

My Orthodox Home

“And Yahweh said to Abram, “Go out from your land and from your relatives, and from the house of your father, to the land that I will show you.”

Genesis 12:1

“We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth, for on earth there is no such splendor or beauty, and we are at a loss to describe it. We only know that God dwells there among humans, and their worship is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations.… And we cannot forget that beauty. Every man who has partaken of sweetness will not afterwards accept bitterness, and so we can no longer remain apart from it.”

Russian Ambassadors (987), in a report to Prince Vladimir of Kiev.

Some 1033 years later, I was circling the parking lot of an Orthodox Church, trying to see inside.

First things first, let’s go back about 15 years.

When I stepped through the doors of AA for the second and last time I was very, very angry at God. Fist shaking, name calling, pissed-off angry. I had wanted to be an Episcopal Priest. Did not happen. Settled for being a Pastor. We won’t even get into that. So, with family in tow, we moved back home and forget all about my ministerial dreams and desires. I worked numerous jobs and began to drink. God had left me up for grabs. So, I grabbed for liquor and the assorted party favors. I don’t know when it happened but somewhere along the way I lost my moorings and began to drift on the sea of alcohol. Some 20 years later, an idolatrous drunk, I would return to AA.

My first 3-4 years in AA I worked Steps 1-3 and came to realize that I did not know how to live and that God had not walked away from me, I had walked away from Him. Of course I did not know how to live. I decided to try Church one more time. I opened my fist.

I returned to the Episcopal Church of my youth. But, it was no longer The Episcopal Church of my youth. I tried some new churches, but they were too new for me.

I had been raised on liturgy. I knew God through liturgy. I loved God through liturgy. I needed liturgy. It was the reason of my mind and the song of my heart. Yet now it was nowhere to be found.

In college, long before marriage and children I had entertained an nurtured a monastic sensibility and calling. Maybe there was something there for my liturgical longings. I already had a makeshift prayer rule fitted together with bits and pieces of The Book of Common Prayer, Roman Breviary, Protestant Devotionals and AA prayers. So, I searched the Internet. Several years later, several ‘dispersed communities’ tried, I was again on the outside.

Finally, I got down on my knees and told God that he had saved me, changed me and was taking care of my alcoholism and the problems it had caused. I had now come to see that my spiritual life, my religious life was also beyond my desires and abilities. I was nowhere. A lost child of the church. Show me want You want. Whatever You want. I had the gift of desperation once again.

For the next several years I languished. I told myself I was a modern day hermit, solitary and silent. I prayed alone. Maybe this was it. What God wanted for me. I was use to being alone. I liked being alone.

And then, certain particular and peculiar signs started popping-up. I can’t explain them, but I paid attention and several weeks later I found myself sitting in the car, outside the Orthodox Church in the parking lot. Scared to death, I did not go in. I was afraid that after this last chance there would be no more chances left. This would be the last one. Or, my life might change again. But this time, it would be forever. No turning back. Two Sundays later I repented and stepped through the door of The Antiochian Orthodox Church.

I was finally, finally home. My Orthodox home.

“Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.”

The Divine Liturgy

And …

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.

T.S. Eliot, from “Little Gidding,” Four Quartets

My AA Home

I will get up, go to my father, and tell him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son! Make me as one of your hired servants.”
So he set off and went home to his father.

Luke 15:18–20

And Moses said, “Let me turn aside and see this great sight. Why does the bush not burn up?” And Yahweh saw that he turned aside to see, and God called to him from the midst of the bush, and he said, “Moses, Moses.” And he said, “Here I am.” And he said, “You must not come near to here. Take off your sandals from on your feet, because the place on which you are standing, it is holy ground.”

Exodus 3:3–5

The other day we were sitting at the tables, sitting around the rooms, listening and talking to one another.

When we say ‘sitting at the tables’ or ‘sitting around the rooms” it is AA slang for having an AA Meeting. These are my rooms and my tables. My AA home. Glory Ground. Holy ground because God is there.

(Inside)
(Outside)

The topic that day was, ‘Why are you here today?’

There were many of the usual responses.

‘I don’t want to drink today.’

‘I want to stay sober.’

“If I go back to drinking again I just might not have another recovery in me. So, I come to as many meetings as I can and don’t drink in between“

’I’m here just for today. So, I won’t drink.”

“My sponsor said “90 meetings in 90 days. This is day 57.”

“I’ve been coming to these meetings for so long I don’t know what else to do.”

“I want my children back. There with CPS right now. A foster home some where. They won’t even tell me. I miss them so much. I hope they’re okay. My husband hates me. He drinks!”

“My new friends are here.”

“I don’t want to go back to jail.

And then this middle aged lady said “When I’m here I don’t feel so out of place and all alone. I’m okay for now. I’m not drinking. And, this is my home for now. This is where I belong. You people accept me even though I’m a drunk. My family and friends don’t anymore. You guys are my family and friends now.”

So, here we are.

God has brought us here. We make it possible for each other. We have come home. That’s AA. We are at home. Where most of us want to be. Where we need to be. Where we should be.

“Oh, but anyway, Toto, we’re home. Home! And this is my room and you’re all here. And I’m not gonna leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all, and oh Auntie Em, there’s no place like home!”

Dorothy Gale – The Wizard of Oz

Hard Glory

A Prayer For Keeps

Once

an honest prayer was mumbled

for all the marbles

of cosmic consequence

Whispered while intoxicated

by a stumble bum saint of sometime

Who did not know

how to live or die

and nothing more

of the retch remained

So he called out for the other

just one more time

to the heaven he had

always hoped for

His heart clarified

saying what he needed

to hear

Heaven whispered back

Yes was the call

Yes was the answer

In a prayer for keeps

they met again

for the first time

So the young son set off for home. From a long distance away, his father saw him coming, dressed as a beggar, and great compassion swelled up in his heart for his son who was returning home. So the father raced out to meet him. He swept him up in his arms, hugged him dearly, and kissed him over and over with tender love.

The Gospel of Luke 15:20 (The Passion Translation:New Testament)

Sometimes Glory is hard. It has to be.