Lesson 6: God’s Presence in the Word (Part 2)

Holy CommunionAs usual, writing these lessons has taken me where I never expected to find myself. When I started the series, I fully intended to examine all the different ways that God is present in the Word. That would have been pretty easy as I am somewhat “known for” reminding people how important the spoken Word is.

However, every time I started my usual routine, I found myself interrupting with “Yes, but…” I was very comfortable with that, because I see the Christian story as an ongoing conversation. However, in this series it was pretty much a conversation with myself until the previous lesson. I was receiving responses that simply agreed with what I said (a very dangerous situation). Then last week I got three very helpful “Yes, but…s”.

First, Myron responded to the paragraph: “The Crucifixion is understood as the world’s attempt to silence God’s voice. The authorities think the execution is necessary to silence one person in order to save a nation. The resurrection proclaims that God’s Word endures forever among us. Christ still speaks.” His response: “This strongly hints that the crucifixion and resurrection are metaphors. I wonder if that’s what you intended.”

He certainly got right to the heart of the matter. Whenever you bring God into the human conversation you must use metaphors. You have to speak of the divine as something like the human. The execution itself is certainly an historical event that can be reported as fact; however, when you use the word “crucifixion” to explain divine meaning and purpose you are using metaphor. That becomes even more evident when you read biblical reports of the resurrection appearances that the writers make clear are not ordinary historical events. Again, you can speak about facts in the life of the historical Jesus but when you speak of the man as an incarnation of God, you are into metaphor. In other words, Myron is right that I am using metaphor, but I am doing that out of necessity and do not believe it weakens the proclamation.

Lupe picked up the “yes,but…” at this point, writing, “So yes, the Word is God’s message to us, but obviously, this message must be sought in the whole, not in the parts, and cautiously in your, mine, or Myron’s personal interpretation.” And “.. we cannot just look at the Gospels and simply ignore all that came before, all those words that were the foundations, the very soul of the nation and faith Jesus espoused.” And “…just hearing someone say ‘God loves you!’ is NOT, to me, ‘the most dynamic experience of God.’ It is too facile.”

I would continue the conversation by maintaining that an authentic proclamation of God’s love always comprises all the conditions Lupe lists. Such a statement is not a trite attempt to offer comfort but comes loaded with all sorts of information and demands. Christians believe Jesus reveals that the essence of our tradition including the Old Testament presents a God of steadfast love and mercy and that this divine love is defined by Jesus life and teachings. With this as background, the proclamation also always includes an invitation or demand that we love one another as Jesus loved us. In other words, “God loves you” should never be thrown out as a facile statement.

Paul gets in on the act by observing the proclamation only becomes a truly dynamic experience of God when the hearer also sees the speaker enact and exemplify that love. Words are supported by actions.

Lupe goes on to offer other ways she experiences God’s presence: “For example, seeing the complexity of Creation and watching science enlarge our universe by the day, hour, and minute makes God more real, more powerful, and more encompassing to me. All of the marvels of the Universe have a Maker, and he is great, and his greatness includes the power and capacity of caring for all his creatures, including each of us. We cannot limit his scope or ability to be present in us. We cannot ignore the immensity of his Creation, nor the gift he gave us of being able to ponder these mysteries.”

Both Paul and Lupe are ahead of me. My plan has been to examine in the next lessons how God is present among us in action, events, and creation. I still intend to emphasize the importance of the Word. A person can certainly be moved when observing a moral or caring action. However, she has no reason to associate God with the action unless the actor uses words to make the connection. So, too, a person can be awed by the beauty of nature or a scientific explanation of the universe, but only is able to associate that with God if they apply the divine story to the experience.

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