Daily Worship

Against Puzzling Clues

James Cathcart January 11, 2023 0 1
Image credit: Unsplash

Matthew 3: 13-17 (NRSVA)

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ 15 But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’

Here’s a question. Does God speak rarely and mystically in ways that we have to strain to hear? Or does God speak continuously, plainly and openly if we just tune in?

I like cryptic crosswords. I’m not very good at them, only able to complete small ones, or the kind of learning ones that allow you to check if what you’ve written is correct to stop you going too far off track. But I love the whole paraphernalia around them. The clues often work like jokes relying on set ups, punchlines, play on words, references and timing. The absolute best thing about cryptic crosswords however is the feeling of smugness one attains by solving a clue (diminished only slightly, if it turns out to be in error).  An integral component of the crossword is the mutual smugness of setter and solver.

I think the way God communicates with us is the polar opposite of a cryptic crossword. God is not a mysterious force hidden behind a pseudonym challenging us to decode the real deal. God does not speak, as it were, from the puzzle section — but from the headlines, the airwaves, the sea waves, the smiles, the falling leaves, the stirring of our compassion. Christianity is rich and complex but it’s also straightforward and simple. We are loved. God is good. Justice, mercy and grace matter. Care for one another. Finding God leads to peace, not smugness.

Now of course, however direct the core concepts, how we actually go about living and working together in response to them isn’t nearly so straightforward. There are still things to work out. But the process is not one of isolated, fragmentary puzzles we try and solve on our own. As I said yesterday: we’re not solo acts. We share these big questions in community with others: pooling wisdom, tradition and innovation. Relying not on lone insight or genius, but on the goodness of one another.

Heaven declared Jesus’s worth and heaven declares our worth too when we tune in. To be a Christian you don’t have to have a clue. Just a heart.




Dear God,

Help us to tune into you

to pick up your frequency all around us.