More Than We Can Imagine, Lovingly Here

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

John 16:12-15

Augustine, the North African spiritual leader and theologian, once asserted that “if think you know it, it isn’t God.” The name “God” is invoked in all sorts of situations – by politicians trying to get the evangelical vote, preachers claiming to have the one truth of faith, athletes affirming God’s blessing after a victory, and everyday people when someone cuts in front of them on the highway.

Many persons are sure about God’s will – a major televangelist gave a prayer of blessing in which he claimed that God had anointed Ted Cruz as our next president; a major pastor connected a tornado with God’s punishment of America for same sex marriage; and religious leaders claim that their church and it alone has the fullness of the gospel message.

As followers of Jesus, we can’t help talking about God, even if it involves asking the pastor to insure good weather for our daughter’s wedding or a Patriot’s victory. But, all talk about God needs to be prefaced by an implied apology, “God is more than we can ever imagine.” Still, we must talk about God, using images from our daily lives and occupations to make sense of the Creative Wisdom behind our 14 billion year, 125 billion galaxy cosmic adventure, and so we call God “father,” “mother,” “spirit,” “rock of ages,” and “friend.” We sing about a garden in which “he walks with me and talks with me and tells me I am his own.”

All this is good, and it deepens our faith. After all, we don’t love in the abstract or in general: we love our life companion, our children and grandchildren, our close friends, a companion animal, and our fellow congregants. Still, we know that others love and have the same devotion to their families and nation as we do, even if they come from a land with which we are at war.

God is here, God is intimate, God is as near as our next breath, and God loves us. But, God is also more than we can ever imagine and we cannot localize God to a particular religion, doctrine, or shrine.

That is the point of the historic doctrine of the Holy Trinity. God is creator, and also companion. God is cosmic, and also personal. God is concerned about my life, and God also cares for my enemy. God comes to me in one way, and God comes to others in very different ways.

Today’s scriptures speak of the grandeur and intimacy of God. Psalm 8 proclaims:

God, how majestic is your name in all the earth….

When I look at the heavens, and your creativity in the moon and the stars, what are humans that you are mindful of us?

We live on a speck, on a speck, on a speck, on a speck….in the 14 billion year evolutionary journey, humankind emerged in the last few moments, and our civilizations in the last few seconds. And yet, God who is present everywhere, is present here in our lives, and has given us a task:

You have created us a little lower than the angels, crowned us with honor, and made us stewards of the earth. You have entrusted us with caring for this little green and blue planet, beloved by you.

The words of Proverbs 8 challenge us to see God as creative, loving, and delighting in this good earth. More than that, they speak of God’s creativity in terms of a feminine companion, who was God’s delight and worked with God in bringing forth the universe. Sophia, hokmah, shekinah, is often identified with the Holy Spirit. While God is more than male or female, God can be imagined in feminine language – as a mother eagle, a loving mother, and the womb of creation. There are, as Persian poet and mystic Rumi asserts, a hundred ways to bow down and kiss the ground, and more than a hundred ways, using a wide variety of words, to describe the Holy One. We can’t fully fathom God, but our words for God need to include, rather than exclude, the vast variety of human, and that includes the full imagery of feminine and masculine.

The gospel reading promises that God’s Spirit will give us the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus our Companion, the Holy Child or Son, the one who walked beside us, now is present within us as our inner wisdom and guidance that comes to us in sighs too deep for words. God’s Holy Spirit, as near as our next breath, will never abandon us and will, when we call upon that Spirit, give us the wisdom, courage, and strength to face the challenges and injustices of the day.

I’ve shared this story before, but in a different context. A child was having difficulties going to sleep. Despite a night light, he was fearful of the shadows and the things that go bump in the night. He called his father to his room several times, wanting reassurance and companionship. Finally, his father consoled him with the words, “God is with you.” The young child responded, “I know that, but I want a God with skin.”

When it comes down to it, all of our theological language in its affirmation of God’s grandeur, the many revelations of God, and God’s creative wisdom in billions of galaxies, is meant to assure us that God has skin – that we go to the garden and can walk and talk with God, that God is with us when the anesthesia is applied before major surgery, that God is our deepest reality when anxiety and panic overtake us, that God is the loving parent who forgives and welcomes us when we have turned our backs on our highest values and succumbed to temptation and hatred, that God will remember us even when no longer remember our spouse or children, and that God asks us to be our best and love our best in our homes and as citizens of our nation and the world. Yes, God is grand, more than words can say, but God is here and is as near as our breath, and God will never ever abandon us, or anything that is loved.

This is the heart of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – Creator, Redeemer, Inspirer, and Mother of Us All.