God is Obsessed with All of Me
By Jerry Monroe Maynard
The sacraments are like a rave; they bring us together under the spotlight and we get to dance with God!
One reason why open and relational theology is so poignant is it presupposes that God is for us; in fact, God is radically obsessed with us! God is like the best hype person you will ever have in your crew! This “obsession” is what sacramental worship gives us the ability to experience.
Given that the sacraments are intended to be “full-body” experiences of God, then the sacraments must become power exchanges rather than infusions of some outside force. The obsessive God does not want to merely “check-in” with us from time-to-time and then run off. The obsessive God is not a teacher who takes a red pen and blots out all the places where we made mistakes then gives us an “F.” The obsessive God always gives us a “G” for that radical grace which never ends. My buddy, the Rev. Jon Paul Robles (JP), likes to say, “God is not diminished by God’s self-giving.”
With this understanding, the sacraments convey a God who wants to dance with us through the rhythms of this “one wild and precious life,” as poet Mary Oliver puts it. Is this not exciting?! Does this not bless your socks off!?
Worshipping with an obsessive God allows us to democratize the sacred. The democratized sacred becomes more like what practitioners of creation-centered religions have always known, life equals spiral.
The spiral constantly weaves in and out, never breaking. Is this not absolutely amazing? A vortex of ecstasy!
I am convinced that we genuinely do not believe that God is for us. This is why many shy away from believing and worshipping God. In fact, in my priestly ministry I have encountered many persons who are actually terrified of God! This sad reality is pervasive throughout the universal church. The “professional religious” have repeatedly sanctified this idea to maintain their delusion that they themselves are God! We have raised up numerous generations of believers who are more accustomed to being denied their true self and have accepted abuse as a sacrament; News Flash! . . . the sacraments are intended for liberation, not abuse!
If God really does not want to have anything to do with us, why would God go through the trouble of “kissing our soul into existence” and then leave us? God is not an anonymous hookup who makes love to us and then disappears. It seems to be quite an act of gaslighting for God to create us and then say, “Oh, you’re worthless. I just made you because I was bored.” But that’s not what the incarnation teaches us—and that is certainly not what the early Christians believed when developing the sacraments.
In the Sacrament of the Eucharist, we find an opportunity for experiencing God’s obsession. The eucharist is a sacrament of oneing (coined by Julian of Norwich). We who are invited into the sacred meal are made one in the process of gathering. Eucharist equals everyone. In fact, the God who is so for us, through the person of Christ, is embodying this reality when saying,
Take this. Eat. This is my body broken for you. Do it in memory of me.
Take this. Drink. This is my blood poured out for you. Do it in memory of me.
These words remind us that the God of the universe, operating through Christ, wanted us to have a way of actively participating in the obsession of God. What better way than a meal?
A meal is a beautiful way that God would take time out of love (not obligation) to express God’s intrinsic infatuation with us. A meal as the mode by which God shows love, is a moving reality because the meal is common to everyone—again, eucharist equals everyone. So, in our common sharing of the meal, throughout the world, we are diving into God’s obsession through nourishment.
So when we talk about partnering with God, we have to understand the sacraments are intended to be visible signs showing one another that God is in this mess with us. God in the bread. God in the wine. God in the drama of it all. We partner with God when we sit and engage in the meal. Remember, the sacraments are not “me and Jesus” moments. The sacraments are celebrated with everyone in mind. When you are receiving communion, you are receiving for those who cannot and those who will not.
So dear friends, how are you partnering with God through the sacraments? Are you trying to be bread that is broken open for the world? Are you the cup of wine that is poured out for those who have nothing to drink? Partnering with God means getting your skin in the game! The sacraments are not momentary partnerships in an event. The sacraments are unfolding partnerships. Ultimately, the sacred meal in the sanctuary must be extended to the streets, and to the screens of our devices. This is the beauty of worshipping an obsessive God—God is all in! Are we all in?
Our world is filled with sacramental expressions that all have to do with God obsessively wanting this dance to be bigger and broader. Nobody is diminished in the sacred circle. Your unique characteristics make God smile. God can handle anything—just get in the circle, already! When we are in the sacred circle dance, our joint power allows us to better understand what Jesus meant when he told us that “greater things will you do when I am gone” (see John 14:12).
So the sacraments are fleshy signs of God partnering with us as a community. Sacraments are for all of us. And with that partnering, then we can establish a rhythm that we can dance to! It’s like when you go to a party, having drinks, then suddenly the DJ kicks on a song and you’re like, “Oh, that’s my jam. Let’s dance.” And then you grab your friend and drag them onto the dance floor. Maybe the DJ then plays a song that your friend likes and they want you to dance with them for this one. A huge joy conglomeration! That is what it means to partner with God. Just a bit of a taste of what the kingdom of heaven would be like!
When we talk about partnering with God, we understand that God’s obsession is for the community. God dances with everyone. We have to bring all of ourselves to the party. Bring your anxieties, mistakes, and triumphs. Bring the secrets whispered during pillow talk.
God wants every ounce of us. God does not partner with social media personas. God chooses to partner with our true selves. There are no limits to God’s partnership with us. Whether we are happy, grumpy, or horny, God wants to be in the mix. Yes, even when we are depressed, God still wants to partner with us.
Do not segment yourself. There’s nothing sacramental about being segmented. We were created as whole beings. Choose to be whole. If we are forbidden to be whole, we will never be holy. Yes, I said what I said. If all of us are made in the image and likeness of the Creator, then each of us is designed to be cooperators with the Creator. Being whole is a cooperation with the Creator.
Let us be whole! Let us partner with God’s obsession! No longer think of this realm as a burden but as a blessing. God’s hand is outstretched, waiting to pull us onto the dance floor! So, let’s go to the party and dance our way to liberation!
Question: How might this idea of an obsessive God who is radically for us help frame the work of justice for our current times?
Jerry Monroe Maynard is The People’s Priest; with a ministry of protest, praise, and community organizing in Houston, TX. Drawing from his Latinx and Indigenous background, Jerry seeks to build communities of care through embodied nonviolence and radical solidarity at the intersections of church and society. Jerry holds a Master of Contextual Ministry (MCM) with Northwind Theological Seminary.
Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, TarcherPerigee, 2000.
Ibid, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, HarperOne, 1988.
The Cosmic Mass: https://www.thecosmicmass.com/
Creation Spirituality Communities: https://cscommunities.org/
To purchase the book from which this essay comes, see Partnering with God: Exploring Collaboration in Open and Relational Theology.