Below is a Sermon from Jenny and Ken Jarvis on our understanding of the nature of God.
At the end of Rex’s Seminar a few weeks ago he asked were there any problems we encountered as lay preachers and I immediately answered – “Yes, the Lectionary.” Chris assured me the Lectionary is not compulsory so I have abandoned it today. We have much sermonising and thinking about Jesus and his life and ministry and that is fine for most people. But the concept that has always intrigued me and given me much concern is the concept of God. So this morning we are going to concentrate on that topic.
How do we understand God or G,O,D as Val Webb denotes him/her. A few years ago CPRT applied for an ACT Government grant to conduct a Day Seminar for women. We received the grant and some of you will remember Thea who used that money to organise a Retreat Day for women led by Val Web. Val’s theme for the day was Images of God. She led us through a pictorial journey of images of God through the ages. – e.g. the ancient Eye god and Ra the sun god and so on through history. I remember well when she got to the Trinity and showed the image her remark was “ two men and a bird”. Aaron, please don’t ever put me on the roster on Trinity Sunday because that is what comes to mind at any mention of the Trinity. How absurd, two men and a bird.
We were then divided into groups, given a sheet of paper and asked to depict our image of God. Merilyn will recall this as she was in my group. This was my depiction of God – ? This ? may have decreased a little in size but it is still there ! I’m influenced by such writers as Lloyd Geering – Christianity without God, Gretta Vosper – With or without God, and Richard Holloway – Godless Morality. This morning we are going to spend some time in quiet reflection pondering a few questions I will raise with you. Firstly, I want you now to spend time in silence thinking about how you envisage God.
Q1 Does your God have gender ?
Marcus Borg, as a child in his Lutheran Church, had a Minister who was a very stern man who berated his congregation from the pulpit with the wagging finger. He says, this became my image of God. He relates an incident of a woman Pastor who was teaching a Unit on Prayer and asked her students two questions.
- When you pray, what do you call God ? Everyone answered “Father”
- When you pray, what do you ask for ? Forgiveness was the number one request.
A very telling picture of God. He then goes on to relate sitting in church watching his wife in her role as an Episcopal Priest distributing the bread on Sunday morning. A four year old girl was kneeling at the altar rail looking up at my wife’s face as she bent over to give her a piece of bread. He says, My wife has a beautiful face and a wonderful smile. As I watched I wondered if that image was being imprinted on that little girl as the image of God.
Lloyd Geering explains that in ancient times, divine figures were denoted as both gods and goddesses e.g. the Sky – Father, the Earth – Mother. The Israelite Prophets so rejected the notion of “Goddess” that no word for goddess appears in Hebrew Scripture. However, in Proverbs, we have Sophia – Wisdom claiming she was with God from the beginning – part of the godhead.
Q2 Where do you find God ? Where do you experience a presence of something beyond the ordinary everyday experiences of life ?
Silence. I guess you all had a variety of different places and times. For me, to hold a newborn baby is one of those times. I went through a period when in church was the last place I could find God. I suffered from depression with the birth of our second daughter, Lisa.
Unfortunately, during that time, I attended a number of churches and received the clear message, “Christians don’t get depressed – they have the joy of the Lord.” My treating Psychiatrist, a practicing Christian himself, became very angry. I was ready to walk out if that happened again. Fortunately it didn’t happen again !
Q3 Does your God have human characteristics and emotions ?
Silence For me the answer is NO – definitely not. God has been described as Spirit and Spirit in those terms is both wind and breath, a non material reality outside of us and within us.
One more question.
Q4 Is your God an interventionist God ? Does your God intervene in the laws of nature and people’s personal problems ? Silence When I said to my Psychiatrist during those awful times, ‘praying is useless’! his reply was, perhaps God is using me to heal you. That is what Gretta Vosper says it always is. It is up to us, we humans, to heal whatever we can – to do something positive to make our world a better place.
Michael Morwood. “God is not confined to any place, culture or religious group. The boundless energy, dynamism and creativity of God’s Spirit is universal. It recognises no boundaries. It can be expressed anywhere, anytime.” Rev Dr. Nigel Leaves – comment on the back of Val Webb’s latest book. “Val Webb has done it again – bringing God talk out of both the academy and the church and into the every day. We are all theologians – God is in our midst and we do not need permission to express what that means to us. This is a book of liberation in that it allows each one of us to ‘do our own theology’ – to express what we mean by God and not leave it to the ecclesiastical or scholastic authorities to make up our minds for us. Moreover, as Webb argues, theology had always been what ordinary people declare ‘from their heart’ about someone/something beyond themselves. This is a brave and challenging book that puts God back in the midst of people – where God belongs.” As from this morning we are all now on the journey of doing our own theology – what God means to us personally and what God means in a church that identifies as part of the “Progressive Movement”