That is just one of the wonderful words of wisdom in the marvellous little book ‘Mister God, This is Anna’. Do you know it? It is a wonderful read. Published in 1970, we now know it to have been written by Syd Hopkins, a man who grew up in the poverty of the pre-second world war East End of London and who suffered physically and mentally for many years. Out of his experiences and reflections, he created a moving story which touches heart, mind and spirit. For, in brief, Mister God, This is Anna tells of the encounter of Fynn, the 19 year old author, with the five-year old Anna, a homeless waif. The book describes the bewitching thoughts, discoveries, analysis, and poetry of little Anna’s beautiful mind. Wise beyond her years, Anna has a special connection and relationship with her dear “Mister God” and God’s enchanting world, and she happily leads Fynn through a whirlwind of wonder and insight.
‘The difference’, said Anna, ‘between a person and an angel is easy. Most of an angel is in the inside and most of a person is on the outside.’ What is the child Anna saying to us, do you think?
Questioned by Fynn, she explains. There is a wholeness to angels: they are full of all the stuff angels are supposed to be full of: light and love and peace. Human beings however tend to be full of all kinds of holes. Some of these holes have names. The holes might be something like: a new dress, game, or car; a new house, job, or holiday; another drink, or drug; whatever it is that we happen to long for. Such things are outside ourselves. Whilst we think about, and give ourselves to them, most of our being is therefore outside ourselves. We are not full like angels. We are walking about with huge parts of ourselves missing. For, of course, even if we were to have the things which leave holes in us, we would still have other holes. For things, in themselves, cannot fill us up, like angels, with the life and light and joy which truly makes us whole...
Today’s Gospel reading is a marvellous story about the difference between someone who is fully human, and full of God, rather than full of holes. Luke’s story tells us that those first disciples were startled by the risen Christ among them, and they began to think that perhaps he was a ghost. Clearly the risen Christ wasn’t just an ordinary person, full of holes, like them! Yet Luke is telling us that this is not at all because Jeuss was a ghost: far from it. Rather, as Jesus says: ‘Touch me and see; for a ghost does not flesh and blood as you see that I have.’ Then he shows the disciples his hand and feet. The risen Christ, in other words, is not a ghost. It wasn’t just part of Jesus which was raised from the dead, but all of what he was: spiritual and material.
I think we find the fullness of the Resurrection very difficult to grasp, don’t we? Many people who believe in a an after-life for example, tend to think only of a spiritual, ghostly, part of themselves living in another dimension. The Christian affirmation is different. What we see in this, and other Resurrection stories, is the central Christian affirmation that everything in heaven and earth is redeemed and raised in Christ. It was not just a spiritual part of Jesus which was raised from death, but all of what he was. That is why, in the Apostles Creed, we say we believe in ‘the resurrection of the body’, not just the spirit. This is not saying we believe in the mere resuscitation of the human body as we know it now. In his writing to the church in Corinth, St Paul tells us that the resurrection body is different from the body of death. Yet it is still recognisably the same. For resurrection is not about raising jst parts of us to new life. There are no holes in the resurrected body. Rather the power of the Resurrection enables us to be raised to true wholeness of being, starting right now.
Without spiritual insight and revelation, human beings tend to have things all upside down. What we see and hear and feel and think now, in our fleshly selves, is what we tend to believe reality is. However, as St Paul said, we only see darkly now. For, actually, rather than the risen Christ, and angels, it is we human beings who are more like ghosts. We are so, so much less than what we what can be, and what we will be, in the power of God’s grace and resurrection. That is part of what Anna was trying to tell Fynn. That is what Luke is trying to tell us in our Gospel story today. That is why, for example, Jesus asks and eats fish. He does so, not because he is hungry, but so that he can invite us to eat and grow in the things which really matter: so that we too can be fully embodied, not full of spiritual holes.
The real question, as my spiritual director said to me the other day, is not ‘how can Jesus be fully human and fully divine, and raised from the dead?’ That is the upside-down way we worldly people tend to think about Jesus when we think that reality is just what we can see, and feel, and consume, in material terms. Instead the real question for all of us is really ‘how can we become fully human and fully divine, and how can we share in the resurrection?’ For true reality is much bigger than we can ever grasp in this world. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ busts it all open. It asks us to become more than ghosts. It calls on us to be truly present to God, here and now, in this material existence which is so much more than we have taken it for. In other words, the Resurrection is God’s invitation to a much fuller existence than we have ever thought about. It is an invitation to enter more fully into all that God has created, and not to be fooled by the merely surface illusions of this world. It is an invitation to live in the inside of God’s love, and not on the outside.
Let me sum it up with the words of a little child. For Anna, the little wise girl, puts it like this, in Syd Hopkins’ wonderful book:
‘You see, Fynn, people can only love outside and can only kiss outside, but Mister God can love you right inside, and Mister God can kiss you right inside, so its different. Mister God ain’t like us: we are a little bit like Mister God, but not much yet.’
So are we willing to become more like the risen Christ, more like ‘Mister God’? Anna leads the way, following the path of Jesus:
(For) “There’s another way that Mister God is different.” said Anna. “Mister God can know things and people from the inside, too. We only know them from the outside, don’t we? So you see, Fynn, people cant talk about Mister God from the outside; you can only talk about Mister God from the inside of him.”
Anna believed that God was in the middle of her, and that she was in the middle of God. So she could become like God, and live like God. Can we learn to do so too, even when we struggle to share such childlike wisdom? Anna thought so:
‘Every person’, she said, ‘and everything that you know has got Mister God in his middle, and so you have got Mister God in your middle too.’
Let us then not be ghosts, but part of the Resurrection Body. Let us not be full of holes, but full of God. Let us recognise God in our middle, and grow in the middle of God. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
by Jon Inkpin, for Easter 3 Year B 2015