Letters from Isabelle

Glynn Cardy
Sun 17 Sep

Baptism celebrates the start of a journey of inquiry – a journey of love [like with his/her parents], a journey of education [like with grandparents], and a spiritual journey of doubt and faith and wonder [that we celebrate and encourage here].  

One of the joys in life is engaging with an inquiring mind.  As a minister I’ve been privileged to receive letters from children.  This morning I want to share with you a series of letters I received from Isabelle, a 5 year old plus, and my attempts to answer her questions.

Dear Reverend Glynn,
Why can't we see God?
From Isabelle.

Dear Isabelle,

Some people understand God to be like a powerful man stuck up in the sky.  I don’t.  I think God is best thought of as love.  Something like the feeling between you and your mum.  You can’t see that feeling but you can feel it.  That’s what God’s like.  You can’t see God but you can feel God, and God feels like love.

Regards,
Glynn

 

 

Dear Reverend Glynn,
How was God made?
From Isabelle.

Dear Isabelle,

Some things have no beginning and no end.  Not many things, but some things.  Like infinity.  Like space.  Like love.  These things just are.  Love is not born when a mother has a child.  Love is there already, like a bulb in the ground, and it bursts into flower when the child is born.  God is like infinity, space, and love.  God was never made, or can be unmade.

Regards,
Glynn

 

Dear Reverend Glynn,
How does God make water?
From Isabelle

This letter from Isabelle contained a postscript from Isabelle’s mum:

P.S. We have tried to explain the scientific theory, with atoms, molecules, electrons and things sticking together (like magnets!), but we wish Isabelle to explore other ideas as well.  She has a very inquisitive mind and is always asking rather searching questions. We would appreciate it immensely if you are able to reply to this email, and no doubt future ones.

Dear Isabelle,

There are some things in this world that are made by humans – like biscuits and television – and some things that just are there – like rain and ponies.  Science can tell us what rain is made up of – all those molecules and things – and how ponies are born from their mothers.  But science can’t really tell us how they are made.  It’s not like someone sat down and designed and drew rain and ponies, and then made them.  Some people when they don’t have an explanation from science say God made them.  Well, God is the power of love that flows through the universe.  God is not a Santa who sits in a workshop and designs and builds things.  So the short answer to your question is that God didn’t make water – just like how love doesn’t make water.

Regards,
Glynn

 

Dear Reverend Glynn,
What does God do?
From Isabelle

Dear Isabelle,

As you probably guessed by now I would put the word ‘love’ into the question instead of the word ‘God’.  So the question would read ‘What does love do?”

Here’s a little list that is by no means complete:

1. Love tucks me into bed at night, listens to the good and bad things about my day, and gives me a kiss goodnight.  [You guessed it – love has the human face and heart of your mum and dad].
 

2. Love encourages me to think about what is good for others.  What do my neighbours need?  Or people far away that I see on television?  And how can I help?
 

3. Love is the joy I feel when playing in piles of autumn leaves, throwing snowballs, making sand castles, or running into the sea.

4. Love is joined to wonder – that feeling I get when starring at the stars on a cloudless night.

Another way of saying all the above is that God comforts and encourages us; God urges us to think about the needs of others; God joins us as we play; and God excites us with wonder.

Regards,
Glynn

 

Dear Reverend Glynn,
Why is God called God, if God is love?
From Isabelle.

Dear Isabelle,

I love your questions!

Words called nouns name an object that we can see – like t-r-e-e names that thing with leaves and branches outside my window.  The word G-o-d though names something we can’t see.  It names a spiritual power that flows through people’s lives.  It is something we experience, like feelings, but can’t be proved scientifically.

Christians believe that the main feeling and evidence of that spiritual power is love.  Sometimes we might meet a person who is so full of goodness that it seems that while she or he is with us that spiritual power called God is with us.  This was the experience of people who knew Jesus.  He was stuffed full of God.

Some people want to call that spiritual power ‘Father’ [not a human dad] or ‘Lord’.  They make G-o-d into a noun.  I prefer to think of G-o-d as a verb: a flowing, moving, loving force.  Sort of like the power that lights up the light bulb, rather than the light bulb itself.

Regards,
Glynn

 

Dear Revd Glynn,
What are devils?  And what do devils do?  And what do devils eat?  Do devils’ babies come from eggs or do they not?
Your Friend
Isabelle.

From Isabelle’s Mum:

P.S. Isabelle had a dress-up day at school today, and one of her friends came as a devil. Hence the questions.

Dear Isabelle,

There has always been goodness in the world, and there’s always been evil.  Usually when we think about evil we think about a really bad person who might have, for example, killed or hurt a lot of people.  But sometimes evil is bigger than just one person or group of people.  We call that an evil system.  About 70+ years ago the Jewish people in Europe were nearly all killed – some 6 million!  It happened in Germany.  While there were a few evil people who thought up this horrific idea, lots of ordinary Germans were involved in it coming about.  The evil was bigger than the people involved.

Back in the time the Bible was written some people talked about this idea of an evil system by making an imaginary creature to symbolize it.  So like Ronald McDonald symbolizes McDonald hamburgers, the devil symbolizes evil.  And like Ronald is just an actor dressing up [there is no real person called Ronald McDonald], and there is no real person called the devil.

However we humans always like dressing up and having fun.  And dressing up as the bad guy is particularly fun.  Our imagination has dressed devils in red, with horns on top, a tail behind, and a pitchfork in hand.  At parties we go around and mischievously prod people with the pitchfork!  Devils at parties eat what everyone else eats – though they usually have pepperoni and barbeque sauce on their pizza!  I haven’t heard about them having babies – they’d probably have to grow up first.

Evil of course is very serious, and the devils you meet at parties can be seriously funny.  There comes a problem when the two are mixed together.  If a person who has done evil acts starts being called a devil then people can start treating him or her as less than human.  It is very dangerous to our soul, and to the safety of all, to start treating anybody as less than human.

Regards,
Glynn

 

Dear Reverend Glynn,
Why is God there?
Love Isabelle.

Dear Isabelle,

I think we’ve talked earlier about the location of God – the ‘where’ question.  We talked about God not just being ‘there’ but also ‘here’, and ‘in here’ and ‘over there’ and ‘far far away’.  Again if we think of God like love there is no limit to where love might go or be.

But I think your question this time hinges on the word ‘why’.  ‘Why does God exist?’ or, in my language, ‘Why does Love exist?’  There are a range of possible answers.  Maybe it’s because we need God/Love.  Maybe it’s because God needs us.  Maybe it’s because God has always been and the real question is why we exist.  Maybe it’s because loving and living and hoping and dreaming are knitted together and can’t be unravelled.  Just like God and us.

Here’s hoping,
Glynn

 

 

Dear Reverend Glynn,
Is Jesus still alive?
Love from Isabelle.

Dear Isabelle,

The answer is no and yes. Let me explain. 

Jesus was born about 2,021 years ago and he died about 1,986 years ago.  He was a real man, made of real bones, skin, flesh, and blood.  When he died all that real bones, skin and stuff died too.  There is no real flesh and blood Jesus hiding in the sky or anywhere else.

However there is more to us, and more to Jesus, than just bones, skin, and flesh and blood. The most ‘real’ thing about Jesus was his love and his vision for how he wanted life to be.  That ‘real thing’ lived on in his followers after he died. That ‘real thing’ still lives on in people who try to love as he did, and try to make the world a place similar to his vision.

This is what many people in the Church understand by the word resurrection.  It wasn’t that the real bones, skin and stuff of Jesus came back to life and continued walking around in Palestine for the next so many years.  Or that the real bones, skin and stuff of Jesus continues walking around on earth or up in the clouds somewhere.  Rather resurrection is a way of talking about how the real love and vision of Jesus lives on within his followers, and sometimes even within people who aren’t his followers but love anyway.

Your friend

Glynn

 

Dear Reverend Glynn,

Why is Jesus special?

Love from Isabelle.

 

 

Dear Isabelle,

Although I think there are lots of reasons Jesus is special, there are three things that stand out for me.

Firstly, he broke the rules.  In his culture and religion there were lots of rules about who could eat together, talk together, and hold hands.  Jesus made a point of eating, talking, and holding hands with all the people he shouldn’t have.  He didn’t believe in the rules that kept people from each other.

Secondly, Jesus believed the most powerful thing in the world was love.  Out of all the things in a religion it was love that was holy.  When people love each other today we see something of God.

Thirdly, he believed that each person, including Glynn and Isabelle, are precious, wonderful and worthy of dignity and respect.  No human life is worthless.  Every person, even the meanest, is one of God’s kids.

Your friend,

Glynn

 

And at this point our correspondence ended [though I have not shared with you a couple more letters about devils].  One of the great joys I had was actually, sometime later, to meet Isabelle, and her mother, and her dog.  I hope wherever she is today that she is still asking searching questions. 

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