May I speak to you in the name of God who invites us all always to come and see, listen and speak, question and learn, wonder and work, laugh and love. Come and see!
What is your image of God just now? (Invite them to say…) Whose image is right? ALL are!! Oh, but what does that do to poor God? Oneness? What about the Bible? OMG! Yikes! Help!
Tomorrow is MLK Jr’s holy day—a day to honor all those who have been shackled, physically & spiritually, whose souls have been robbed/raped. It’s also a time to honor those brave souls who have given their lives to free shackled souls. Might God be shackled? YES . . .for haven’t we, all religions, for centuries shackled the image of God with limiting constrictive words and images? We have created with our words a God-image that is dominantly transcendent, dominantly almighty and exclusively masculine. A theological error at best! We need to liberate God!
Today you all to be theologians. Face it: we’re all closet theologians, people who think and wonder and use words about God, all the time. Ask any atheist: Who is the God you don’t believe in? And you might stump him or her—at least create room for a conversation.
Episcopal laywoman Verna Dozier in her classic book The Dream of God, is not too worried about the Bible or God and change. Neither am I. Dozier writes: “It [scripture] was not written by God therefore God will not be destroyed if learned scholars find, for example, that the word in Isaiah used for “virgin” when God was warning King Ahaz against finding security in military alliance, means only “young woman” (Isa 9:14) OR if they find that many of those red letters in some editions of the Bible weren’t spoken by Jesus at all, but are words of the early church.” The Bible has MANY images of God—so many, in fact that when the ancient redactors gathered to organize all the writings into one authoritative volume by which we could know the ONE God, they discovered to their astonishment that they had a document full of countless different views of the Divine. All of them bore truth, all of them illumined. They left them all in. Such diversity keeps the Bible a living document, and God a living God.
AND remember… God is pure Mystery, pure Being. God cannot be damaged by human creative imagination. God has risen above all our images, not to mention all our genders.
Tips: When you pray or read or listen or proclaim scripture use 3 guidelines:
always be creative
always be willing to grow
always be willing to let God’s image grow
I dare say God is delighted when you use your own hearts and minds to imagine/discern God at all. It’s proof that you care.
Come and see.
When you read or listen to the Bible ask yourself: what kind of God is represented here? Then what does that God-image mean to me just now? or to this community just now? or to this Church, or religion, or this world just now?
All these readings today are invitational.
-Samuel: a God who communicates to kids at night because the old priest is dimming. Here is divine presence as mercurial, flexible, able to communicate through children.
-Psalm 139: a God who desires to be known and loved and to know and love all living things = one definition of grace
-Paul to Corinthians: a God who gives us the wisdom of discernment, because all things are lawful but not everything is good for you, especially too many donuts—or too much anything
-Gospel of John: a God who repeatedly invites us to come and see, wonder and work, seek and learn, ask questions, like “Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Newburyport?
Come and see.
Bible is books and words. Words are one way to connect with God and yourself—to create the scriptures of your own life. So here’s a little lifelong spiritual reading list. Come and see!
Age 1: Read Pat the Bunny and fall in Love.
Age 2: Re-read Pat the Bunny—learn there’s no bunny in there; beginning of awe and wonder
Age 3: Read The Runaway Bunny—discover bunnies can get lost and be found
Age 4: Read Goodnight Moon—because the same author wrote it as wrote Runaway Bunny— learn that bunnies can read and love books, as well as the moon!
Age 5: Graduate to Adventures of Peter Rabbit—learn bunnies can have fun and get into trouble
Age 6-12: Read Bible stories of Jesus—discover God is not a bunny but a man who tells great stories—unforgettable stories.
Teens: Read Alice in Wonderland—joyfully discover that bunnies race around, go down tunnels and have OCD or ADHD like you
Adolescent: Read Catcher in the Rye—decide to swear like Holden Caulfield, your new idol
Aspiring adult: Read Watership Down—Bunnies again . . .discover lupine wisdom; bunnies discover evil and discern one small bunny named Fiver as a prophet like Samuel
Midlife: hit the skids, keep a journal, consult a therapist, seek and find your own words, maybe write your own books about God— conclude that God may not be a boy’s name—or a bunny’s
Age 45-50: Study the Bible all of it—no bunnies except in Genesis, your new favorite book
Aging: Re-read Psalm 139-re-root in intimacy with God-Creator Beloved
Age 75: Re-read Pat the Bunny—discover there actually IS a bunny in there, somehow
mysteriously—and fall in love all over again.
And so: Amen.