What if God was made out of jellybeans, and he lived in a great big basket in the sky?
When I was a kid, Willy Wanka’s chocolate factory seemed like the greatest place ever.
Perhaps – I thought – heaven was something like the chocolate factory, and God was like the Candyman.
Remember the song:
Who can take a sunrise,
Sprinkle it with dew?
Cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two…
The candyman can ’cause he mixes it with love
and makes the world taste good…
I may love to eat those Malted-Milk-Robin’s-Eggs more than any Easter candies that the Candyman might make – but I pray that heaven is nothing like his chocolate factory, that God is not made of jellybeans, the choirs of angels are not marshmallow peeps, and heaven is not carpeted with that shiny green grass we put into Easter Baskets for our families.
But what is heaven like? What is God made of?
Well, you know, recognizing the reality of God is hard. That’s no secret. And communicating it is even harder.
It’s hard enough to understand something bigger than ourselves, let alone to describe it in terms that do it justice.
Which is why all human images of God will work for some people, in some places, for some time. But not forever.
Because, sadly, when we paint our pictures of God as we understand him – we will inevitably leave things out which are true and put things in which are false.
Which is why we reject so many images of God which we have inherited from our ancestors.
For example, take the Emperor God image so popular in a bygone world of pharoahs, queens and emperors. You know it too, it’s the glorious, unpredictable, and cruel God who sits on a heavenly throne, demands blood sacrifices, and acts more like Macbeth than the Son of Man. This may have been the God of our ancestors’ feudal Lords – but it is not my God.
Or, take the God of the Enlightenment so popular when this country was founded. You know: the Distant Clockmaker God, who built a universe, gave it laws, let it run its course, and retired to the edges of outer space. Again, this may have been the God in Whom The Founding Fathers Trusted, but it is not my God.
No, the emperor’s God of Power and Might, and the fecklessly faithful intellectual’s God of the Gaps, are neither one of them my Lord and Saviour.
But sadly for a lot of people these days, no model of God works at all, and the “God hypothesis” is tossed away altogether.
For these people-who-claim-no-God-whatsoever, the God we believe in either can’t be proved … or if he can, he is no kind of God at all … for if he exists, then why can’t he stop bad things from happening to people?
But, you see, God is not made out of jellybeans.
God is not made out of jellybeans, or imperial Roman culture, or Greek Thought, or the Western European Enlightenment, or even whatever conditions of justice and goodness we seek to require that God adhere to, because God is not made out of anything … but God.
You see, God is God. God was, is, and will be. God is the Great I Am. And whether we see God with a shock of white hair, a pair of bronze feet, and a handful of stars – God is God.
And whether we see God with holes in body, and peace on his lips – God is God.
And whether we can live, move and have our being in God every moment of every day from now until forever – and never once be able to accept that God is there – God is God.
Which is why for those of us here today, who don’t worship God on Easter only, but who also come the week after Easter – it is important that we do not allow ourselves to paint pictures of God that we aren’t willing to throw away every day.
It’s important that we do not allow ourselves to form ideas about God which will not be changed when we pick up the Scriptures every day.
Because if we think that we have a pretty good idea about who God is, how he looks, and what his tastes are, then I suggest we have closed our eyes to the reality of the risen Lord who has just walked into the room with us, and said, “peace be with you.”
Because God is not made out of jellybeans.
God is not made from the sum total of all the things we love.
Because if our god is just as we want him to be – then our god is not God.
In the Risen Jesus, we are shown that God is not as we would have him, but as God would have us.
Easter is about the resurrection of a man from the dead – a man who came to show us the face of the God we forever think is something other than he is.
Christianity is about putting away childish things, and seeing God face to face. Amen.