clichéd

Aren’t clichés wonderful?

I would like to engage in some blue sky thinking by thinking outside of the box. Perhaps I will fly a kite, or pop some thoughts in my mental microwave and see what goes ‘ping’. It may be safer to let sleeping dogs lie in case I let the cat out of the bag, but I am firing on all cylinders so I am going to jump in with both feet.

Mental microwaves aside (that comes from the classic British comedy ‘Drop the Dead Donkey’) these statements have entered our language and have acquired a meaning all of their own.

The origins of the word ‘cliché’ are unsurprisingly French. According to the fount of all knowledge, aka Wikipedia, the word is borrowed from French. In printing, a cliché was a printing plate cast from movable type. This is also called a stereotype. When letters were set one at a time, it made sense to cast a phrase used repeatedly as a single slug of metal. “Cliché” came to mean such a ready-made phrase.metal type from letterpress 3

While it may have made sense for printers to create these clichés I worry that Christians have done the same. We have decided that God is like this or that and have defined him, confined him, and perhaps even refined him (in the sense that we have tamed him). We have our preset ideas of what God is like, what he would do, what he wouldn’t do. We decide the limits of God’s activity and the boundaries of his love and grace.

The film ‘Dogma’ (which I love, but you do need an internal ‘bleep’ for all the swearing) is based on the premise that because the Catholic Church has declared something and claims to speak for God, he is bound by their dogma. The end of the film (no spoilers) explodes the preconceptions about God wonderfully.

On Sunday morning I was sitting in a church service where the preacher was talking about worship. I realised that I was guilty of having too small a vision of God. Indeed any ‘vision’ of God is too small. Our finite capacity is always going to be inadequate to describe him. That sends a shiver down my spine. Even if I spent my whole life describing and defining God I would still have too small an understanding and description of God.

This is one reason why the incarnation is so amazing. In Jesus the mystery and majesty of God is somehow merged with humanity so that we can see something of what God is like in ways that we can understand. But please let’s not try to confine, define or refine Jesus either. Rather than the quaint Victorian portaits of a blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus with birds perching on his shoulders and children at his feet I find it easier to think in terms of his characteristics.

Gracious

Loving

Forgiving

Kind

Winsome

Funny

Perceptive

Engaging

Relevant

Generous

Accessible

and so on…

The limits of human vocabulary mean that this list would ultimately be finite, but it would be amazing. Behind each word in my mind are accounts of what he said and did that are recorded in the Gospels. But they are not the whole story (check out the last words of John 20 if you are not sure about that). They help us catch a glimpse of what he is like and in turn through him we have a tiny representation of God the Father.

Time for another shiver down the spine I think.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

 

A sign was hung in an office window. It read:

Help wanted.
Must type 70 words a minute.
Must be computer literate.
Must be bilingual.
An equal opportunity employer.

A dog was ambling down the street and saw the sign. He looked at it for a moment, pulled it down with his mouth, and walked into the manager’s office, making it clear he wished to apply for the job.

The office manager laughed and said, “I can’t hire a dog for this job.”

The dog pointed to the line: “An equal opportunity employer.”

So the manager said, “OK, take this letter and type it.”

The dog went off to the word processor and returned a minute later with the finished letter, perfectly formatted.

The manager said, “Alright, here’s a problem. Write a computer program for it and run it.”

Fifteen minutes later, the dog came back with the correct answer.

The manager still wasn’t convinced. “I still can’t hire you for this position. You’ve got to be bilingual.”

The dog looked up at the manager and said, “Meow.”

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