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Conceptualizing God

What I'm Reading Today: Exodus 3-5

For the last few years I lived in Denver, I was involved in what was called the In Care Committee for the Metropolitan Denver Association's Ministry Council (something other association's call the Committee on Ministry). In my capacity as a member of the In Care Committee, my job was to work with individuals on their path toward ordination to ensure they were ready to serve in some form of ministry.

We would meet with the individuals who were in care at least one a year and track their progress. At the end of their time of preparation, the individuals would then present their ordination paper to the committee, and we would question the candidate about their paper.

It seemed that most of us who served on the committee developed some questions that we would pose with some degree of regularity. Phil, for instance would ask a question about the relationship between of autonomy and covenant within the United Church of Christ. Steve would ask a question about pastoral care. Even I had a question I would ask with some regularity.

That question?

It had to do with the issue of theodicy (i.e. a form of the old "Why do bad things happen to good people?" question). You see lots of us progressive folks spend a good deal of our time talking about God in warm, fuzzy terms – in relation to words like "love", "grace", and "mercy". I would ask the candidate, "If you flip on the television and see a nature show where a predator like a cheetah is chasing down and killing an antelope, how do you explain that uncomfortable scene where one creature is feeding upon another creature as a part of this thing we call life? Why does it have to work that way?"

It was an admittedly clumsy question designed to get the candidate to push him/herself and account for aspects of creation (and by implication the Creator) that don't fit into our warm, fuzzy boxes. While there are certainly lots of aspects of what we call God that are warm and fuzzy, life has a way of reminding us that pieces of our experience transcend all boxes we create to capture both the creation and the Creator.

I thought of this as I read today's chapters from Exodus and was reminded of the phrase God used to describe Godself: "I-am-who-I-am". God didn't call Godself things like "I-AM-WHO-YOU-WOULD-LIKE-ME-TO-BE", or "I-AM-WHO-YOU-WOULD-PREFER-ME-TO-BE", or "I-AM-WHO-YOU-THINK-I-AM". Instead, we are told God used the phrase "I-AM-WHO-I-AM".

Today, I would invite you to spend some time sitting in prayer and/or meditation and opening yourself up to the expansive pieces of God that might not fit into your current ways of thinking about/experiencing God. While such time might initially seem scary or threatening since it might challenge long-held assumptions, in the long run it will open you up to a deeper connection with God – a connection that exists not on our terms, but more on God's.

Til next time …

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