As I experience life and talk with others about their experience, I am often reminded of my simple "plumbers theology" made up of three blunt statements.
- "Shit happens"
- "There are bastards in the world"
- God is in the world too making it a "beautiful world".
"There are bastards in the world." I spend hours giving voluntary time for Habitat for Humanity. Yet sometimes a recipient of my efforts seems ungrateful. I helped to get a Night Shelter running in Dunedin. One of our clients who had free accommodation, food and clothing stole our computer and other gear. Sometimes people react to us in a way that is uncalled for. Other drivers cut us off, neighbours are inconsiderate, our kids are led astray and dictators stay in power when they shouldn't. And to be honest, I am sometimes nasty, lustful or destructive. The reality that we have to battle in the world is simply that "there are bastards in the world". It can be a readiness to accept that our fellows are just like us, not perfect. It can be a statement that we will do battle with the selfishness in ourselves to make sure there is one less "bastard in the world". It can be a readiness to see past the sin, and offer forgiveness and love to the sinner. It can be a willingness to be patient with others. But also it can be a readiness to be careful, cautious and wise in our dealings. For me it is often a statement where I remind myself that I am called to be generous, constructive and caring, and how people respond to that is their business. Their lack of gratitude, their nastiness, their retaliation should not be allowed to drag me off course. It is simply true that "there are bastards in this world." Get used to it.
"God is in the world too!" This is the the most important part of my plumber's theology. In this world, "shit happens", there are "bastards", but another undergirding reality of life is that there is a movement of love, a spirit of creativeness, a unifying presence that we have called "God". I see this presence in creation, but most often in ordinary people. Mothers who love beyond anything that could be expected of them. Dreamers who dream of a better world and give themselves for that dream. Friends who listen. Firemen who care for a colleague. Ambulance officers who again and again care for patients with the same devotion as if they were their kith and kin. I see it in movements which rebel against injustice. Groups who work for equal opportunities. People who love the disadvantaged and reach out to make life better. And I experience that presence in the life of Jesus. I feel that sacred life in the nudgings of my own conscience and the dreams I have for a better world. And even in this old ex-plumber, I see that sacred presence in the love, empathy and joy I have toward others. I know his reality in the solidarity I feel with people. I say with Loius Armstrong, "its a beautiful world!" "God", that sacred "presence" is alive and well, making a difference amidst the other stuff! May that "presence" find expression in my life.