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Category: Bible

Near & Far

07

Nearly 400 Friends convened in Colorado Springs at the end of December for Summit 2010, the first national gathering of evangelical Quaker youth and young adults. We spoke of missions, of community, of our identity as Quaker followers of Christ. There were discussions on women in ministry, on the importance of theological education, of the tension between pacifism and patriotism, of spiritual formation, sexual purity, immigration, and incarnation. And underlying every conversation were differing conceptions of the very nature of God. Close and personal, the inner Light? Or distant and powerful, the Creator of the universe?

What if God is both?

A meditation:

I live in God. God created me. God also created the boundaries of my life, the places where I touch others – where our boundaries bump (or overlap) – the crossroads of our lives, the space in which I stop to find myself.

I can’t get away from God. For God is here. And there. Now. And then. And when. If not for God, naught I’d be. Not now. Not ever.

Yet I am nothing. A grasshopper. The nation in which I live is a drop in the bucket, a speck of dust, a mote. To what could I compare God? With whom? A potter? A goldsmith? A counselor? They all fall down. Fall short. Fail completely to encompass the God who, in Isaiah, “stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.”

Even so, it is God who holds me together. It is God who has reconciled me to himself. It is God who has invited me in, made me part of his body, the Church. And as I find myself a part of God’s body, I also recognize – though painfully – that I am unworthy (and unable). How am I to know God’s ways? God’s thoughts? God’s very word?

God is far away. But close. God fills both heaven and earth. And God is here. As I type. As I think. Looking out the window, watching as one last leaf describes a curve in the slant of afternoon light, I know that God has made this moment. Is making. God draws my attention to the beauty of his work, to him.

Father in heaven, You are holy, wholly beyond my understanding. Give me what I need. Let me forgive. Forgive me. Protect me. Above me. Beside me. Within me (and yet separate). I don’t understand. But I am thankful. You know my needs.

I know, God, that you are present as “the inner Light.” You inform, inspire and guide. But I also know that you are separate – so much bigger – from my selfish, suffering, sin-sick existence.

God fills both heaven and earth. And God is here.

Names for God

11

Each of us has an image of God. In our lives and in our communities, we have created God in our image. And we continually recreate that God as a reflection of both our experience and of our need.

We have many names for God – gracious Father, Father God, Abba, Daddy, precious Savior, Jesus Son of Mary, Redeemer, Comforter, Emmanuel, Adonai, Lord – but our words for God represent nothing more than “our conceptions of the divine nature” (Gregory of Nyssa). They do “not convey the meaning of that nature.” Our names for God are human constructions, even if they are revealed in scripture.

Why, then, do we name God?

The issue of naming is an issue of control. Consider the formula “to pray in Jesus’ name,” a formula that simply gets it wrong. To pray in Jesus name must always be a prayer of humility, must never be a prayer of control.

What, then, is spiritual maturity?

It is a willingness to let God be God.

Our names for God are human constructions

Human Power

09

Humanity is unique. For example, no other creature has the power to decide which species are and which are not valuable. In expanding our territory, we commonly make god-like decisions of life and death for others. And although we call ourselves stewards, in effect, we are at war with Creation. Can we win such a war?

I can fight gravity, but jumping off a cliff won’t win me much of anything. I can argue against the law of force, but stepping in front of a fast-moving freight train fails to convince. What if there are already-existing laws of morality and of community and of truth? And what happens to humanity if we continue to fight against these laws?

we commonly make god-like decisions of life and death for others

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