Z is for Zippy

We wrap up the divine alphabet with Zippy.
One might think “zippy” is the last word to describe God. After all, God is the creator, the source of everything that exists, and the ultimate cause of everything that happens. God is thus “the unmoved mover.” God cannot be moved by anything else, because if that happened, whatever caused him to move would turn out to be the real God.

This, by the way, is the answer to the child’s question, “Who made God?” The question is nonsense—like asking how much does Thursday weigh—because the very word “God” means that which is not made by anything! So it’s not an intelligible question to ask who made God. Of course, this answer, even though true, will not satisfy any child!

Our problem is different than the child’s. It comes up when we start to try to imagine what it means to be unmoved. We think of things like huge mountains. They don’t change very quickly, so God must be like a mountain, except not even changing in the slow way that mountains change. But this is an error. Although God does not change, he is the very opposite of inert. God gets things done. Indeed he gets more things done than any creature could.

That’s why we can say he is zippy.

Of course, we have no idea how God is active. He cannot be active in the way you and I are. We do something, then we take a nap, then we do something else. We might try to do two things at once, foolish as that is; for instance, we might try texting and driving at the same time. (I’m looking at you, Dallas.) The point is that when we are active, our activity is at the exclusion of other activity. When my eyes are on my phone, they are not on the road. When I am writing, I am not running. When I am doing something in Paris, I am not doing something in Waxahachie. When I am awake, I am not asleep.

None of these limitations are true of God. Since he is no creature, God does not have creaturely limitations. He can do whatever he does without that limiting his doing anything else. Since he is not a creature, he could not drive a car; but if he could, he would be able to text and drive at the same time!

We might call it a zip car.

From A to Z, God is a surprise. Whatever we say of God, we find that he slips away from our language. Nonetheless, there are true things to be said about God. We conclude with this one. Although God never moves, never changes, nonetheless he is zippy.

Which is to say, he is more alive than we can possibly imagine.

Out & About.  I am to preach this Sunday, December 5, at St. David of Wales in Denton, Texas, at all their services: 8 and 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. At 9:30 I will teach a class on Christian teaching after Covid, on points of doctrine that need particular emphasis as the pandemic recedes into a feature of everyday reality.

On Sunday, December 12, I am to preach at the contemporary services at Incarnation in Dallas, at 9 and 11:15 a.m.

If you want to note some 2022 dates, the “Good Books & Good Talk” seminar has the following books scheduled, all to be 5 p.m. discussions at Incarnation in Dallas:
    Jan. 16: Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
    Feb. 20: Philoctetes by Sophocles
    March 20: Children of Men by P. D. James
    June 5: Little Men by Louisa May Alcott

The Rev'd Canon Victor Lee Austin, Ph.D.

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Y is for Yearning

   God is what we yearn for, whenever we yearn for anything.
    You might think that the things your heart is set on are not proper things to pray for, and so you might edit your prayers. The late VictorWhite O.P. (no relation) would teach that the reason so many of our prayers don’t go anywhere is that we are praying for what we think we ought to pray for, rather than for what we in fact desire. But if we pray for what we really want—however pathetic it may be—God can use that to draw us into his love and transform us. But if we never tell him the truth, we are almost impervious to his approach (almost, but never completely).
    This is literally true. If you are yearning for ice cream, that is a desire that will lead to God. If you are yearning for a certain person to love you, the truth in the center of that desire is a desire for God. You might want a car, a job, an end to back pain, or even to see your competitor lose out: dig deep enough into that desire, and you’ll find it is, however twisted or concealed, a desire for God.
    Which means it’s okay to ask God for whatever you really want. God can work with that.
    But it is also the case—and this is more mysterious—that God yearns for us.
    God wants to be our lover. Look at the Bible’s Song of Songs, which expresses a longing that runs through the Old Testament: God wants his people to long for him. Look at Jesus, weeping over Jerusalem which has repelled his overtures. Look at him at supper with the disciples, explaining that he is going to die for them because he and they are friends.
    Yearning goes two ways. The human soul longeth for God, like as the hart desireth the water-brooks! And God longeth for us likewise. This, a truth hidden from philosophers, is one of the deepest mysteries of the universe. The maker of all things yearns for you to yearn for him.
    Out & About.  I am to preach on Advent Sunday, November 28, at Church of the Incarnation at Dallas, the traditional services at 7:30, 9, and 11:15 a.m.
    The next “Good Books & Good Talk” seminar is set for 5 p.m. that Sunday, November 28. We will discuss Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Anyone who reads the book is welcome to the conversation.
    On the Web. My latest “Pastoral Reflection” for the Human Life Review is “IVF Extras”: “She was telling me about her friend, a married woman who, having found it impossible to conceive a child, had turned to IVF. Two embryos were implanted in her womb, but as they were developing problems arose, resulting in a highly dangerous pregnancy from which she could have died. Her friend refused to give up, however, and eventually gave birth, prematurely, to twin boys. The boys had a months-long NICU stay, their lungs maturing with the help of machines. Their traumatic birth was not without lingering challenges, but there had been fewer difficulties than once feared, and the children, now school-age, were thriving.” You can read it all here: https://humanlifereview.com/ivf-extras/


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The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."