A few years ago a prominent public figure uttered some famous words: he said “We don`t DO God”. Let`s put aside for a moment the silliness of imagining that `God` is a subject you can `Do` or `not Do` as the fancy takes you… What this person was getting a bit worried that what we like to think of as a purely private matter (matters of belief) could begin to get mixed up in the way we organise what we like to call the `real` world.
But his reaction was a bit of a `give-away` and it was an understandable reaction because it just reminded us of how we instinctively know that `Doing` God can`t be a private thing. `Doing` God means living life very differently…. If God IS God… then he has something to say about the way His world is run; He`s going to interfere; there can be no, `no-go areas` for him.
And it`s this underlying fear that leads a lot of people to take refuge on the one hand in what we call `Atheism` (and I do take my hat off to them….you need such a lot faith to hold that position) or on the other, what`s known as `Agnosticism`- these are people who cop out and claim that we simply can`t know whether there`s a God or not. And these two positions are thought to be antidotes to this interfering God, the barricades behind which we can hide.
But all the while, the Christian conviction is summed up in the phrase `You can run but you can`t hide”…. And we can no longer take refuge in apparent ignorance or reasoned dis-belief. No, for the Christian `Doing God` begins with Jesus Christ. You have to throw away everything you thought you knew about what that word `God` means and look at him…. his life, death and resurrection. As Jesus told one of his disciples: “He who has seen me has seen the Father”. Or as St. John says.. “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known”. (John 1.18) In other words, it`s in Jesus we meet the interfering God.
And that short Bible passage we heard a moment ago gives us a few clues about what `doing` this God might look like. Today, we heard a small piece of a much longer conversation which Jesus had with his disciples after the Last Supper they shared together… it was just before he was murdered. The first word he uses is `Abide`… or `remain`. He says “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. (John 15.9)
In other words, Jesus has brought God`s love into their lives and he wants them to remain open to it… In this sense, `Doing God` means being someone who remains open to this relationship ….. letting shape us. And it`s not rocket science. We know all about keeping in touch with one another (most modern technology seems devoted to helping us do it over vast distances!) and of course we all know what happens to relationships when we don`t keep in touch…. misunderstandings creep in and friendships end.
And Jesus understands this. He says, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” (John 15.10) We might of course react negatively to the word `commandments`… we`re used to paddling our own canoe thank you very much but Jesus is wise enough to know that we need guidance; patterns to live by. He`s saying that if you want this relationship to flourish then it`s not a haphazard business. You have to let your life be shaped by the relationship and its significance…. It`s about your daily behaviour.
And we know what that`s about. You start dating the man or woman of your dreams and your friends soon start to notice don`t they? I mean they don`t see so much of you because your diary… your schedule has changed. In fact the tell-tale clues as to whether things are changing I our openness to God are usually in two particular areas: the wallet and the diary.
Because these are the two places where we`re inclined to use the words `My own`. `My own money` `My own time`. Well in `doing God` we surrender our schedule; our daily routines … and we surrender to a spirit of generosity. The constant question we need to ask is what will it look like for my life to be re-shaped by friendship with Christ? … this is the question posed by a Baptism.
You see, we don`t look to fit God in to an otherwise busy schedule. Moments of prayer, setting aside Sunday for worship, Bible reflection, service of others; these are rather like the star striker on the football team- they`re always the first thing on the team sheet and everything else fits around them. And more than this, our life is not just re-shaped it becomes re-scripted. We find that we have a different story to tell…. About who we are; where we`ve come from and where we`re going.
So, it`s no longer a matter of what I`m doing with MY life but what Christ is doing in and through me. It`s not so much `what I`ve achieved` as `what I`ve been given`. It`s not… (as our reading tells us) that we have chosen him… but that he has chosen us and set us apart to live a Christ-shaped life of blessing to others.
And of course we learn that we can`t go it alone; we learn that the Christian faith is not a `self-help` regime…. No, as a Christian we become part of a community that helps keep us in shape and on script. Baptism marks us out as those who have been drawn into friendship with Christ and his people, the Church. The Church is that community which has no other purpose than to `do God`… or more accurately, shout from the roof-tops what God has done in Jesus Christ.