God is Big, Part 2

October 17, 2006

I recently wrote a post on how God is Bigger than the Church.

In it I talked about how God is big.  As my dad is fond of quoting from a lecture he attended at the Presbyterian seminary in town, “God is big, God is really big.  If you just get that one point from seminary then the seminary has done its job.”

My post used a lot of academic and theological points to talk about how big God is.

My recent trip to California reminded me how little that stuff matters.

God is big.  God is really big.  We may use language, doctrine, theology, and other human concepts to try and describe God, but ultimately we cannot use the finite to describe the inifinite.

On my trip back to California and back to my home parish of All Saints Pasadena, I was struck by how open and receptive everyone was.

All Saints, while certainly not perfect, contains a wealth of people who focus on what possibilities exist in God rather than what limitations they perceive God to hold out for us.

That’s big.  That’s a really big deal.

In a recent adult-ed forum at my parish in Austin, a speaker was discussing an initiative to form a Department of Peace in the government.  Rather than being anti-war, anti-guns, anti-anything, the department would be pro-peace, pro-reducing violence in schools, pro-eliminating domestic violence, etc.  It would focus on the possibilities that exist instead of the limitations that should be imposed- the systemic issues instead of the surface symptoms.

What was interesting was that the discussion turned to the feasibility of the program.  Nobody disagreed with the objectives, but whether or not they were pragmatically achievable.  What a couple of us in the room focused on was that it wasn’t important to achieve the implementation of the Department of Peace itself per se, but the journey of the campaign- raising awareness, changing the culture– these are the things that are important.

It is the journey of Christianity.  Changing humanity from the broken state of looking at the world for what is impossible, or what is restrictive, or what we cannot or should not do, or being reactive, or being “anti-whatever”; to looking at the world through God’s eyes, seeing the potential, looking for relationships, being proactive, and being “pro-whatever”.

God is big.  God is really big.  In the church we fail here often.  That’s what our current dilemma is about.  Do we look at the bigness of our God?  Do we allow ourselves to give God the room to be as big as God is?  Or do we build up false walls around God, insisting that God must be limited in some way simply because we cannot imagine anything else, or perhaps because we don’t want it to be any other way.

That is the dilemma of humanity.  Our incompleteness prevents us from seeing the bigness of God in totality.  Our brokenness prevents us from necessarily wanting God to be as big as God is.  “God’s love is bigger than we would like” is something Ed Bacon (rector of All Saints Pasadena) says, and how true it is.  No matter what ideology we hold, no matter what political affiliation, God’s love is bigger than we would like.

We must focus on how we reach for that bigness, knowing that it is only in Christ Jesus that we are fully able to realize that bigness.  We struggle, bound to fall short, but doing it anyway as Christians, because the wonderful thing about us is that we can continue to hope, we can continue to love, we can continue to act, because our hope is resurrected with each day, with each hour.

And, minute by minute, hour by hour, even decade by decade, the walls we have built around our God begin to fall.  We begin to see the bigness of our God.  The love that is so freely given is felt, and we are given the grace to act in that love to spread the good news of that bigness.

And, my friends, that is how, in the grand scheme of things, the arc of history, over time, always bends towards justice.

j

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6 Responses to “God is Big, Part 2”

  1. Susan Says:

    I have a bumper sticker that reads “God is too big to fit into one religion.” Because of this, and because I live in Georgia, I regularly get tracts put on my windshield which tell me in no uncertain terms that I am going to hell if I don’t accept Jesus (complete with bloody Jesus pictures, etc.). They even give me a little prayer which, if I say it (and mean it), is my ticket into heaven. Interesting, as I’ve been a Christian my whole life.

    It wasn’t until I started truly understanding how big God is, that God is larger than I can possibly imagine, that I really began to have an understanding of faith, of Jesus’ teachings, and could make a bit more sense of the world and our place in it. And it was scary when my mind finally opened up to the possibilities of God’s vastness – I realized desire to have power or control over anything in my life was, perhaps, delusional.

    Yes, tearing down those walls we build up around God (not that God could ever be or ever was bound by them) is a step toward freedom and justice.

    I’ve enjoyed reading what you have to offer here — thank you!

  2. Jeff Says:

    What an awful experience.

    I recently began receiving some mailings at my home from some “enlightened soul” with some similar content. I simply offered a prayer to the anonymous contributer and prayed that they would be freed from the bondage of their own limitations, knowing that Christ (ironically, the Christ they think I need) can free them.

    Thanks for posting, and peace.

    j

  3. Ann Drake Says:

    Great insight! Don’t forget this when you are in a parish or where ever you land.

  4. Jeff Says:

    Thanks!

    If I ever forgot it, may I have somebody to put me back in my place. I have been meaning to write a post on how the clergy are not anybody special, only called to do special work in the vineyard– will get to it someday.

    j

  5. Dave Says:

    I don’t know how big God is in physical dimensions. But I do know that someone who agrees to be whomever you want them to be and will accept whatever position you want is generally regarded as pretty small in the area of integrity. Truth isn’t something that you can stretch to suit your preference. Whoever God is, he is only one thing. I’m sure he has no need or desire to bend to our individual selfish concepts. Either He fits into no religion at all or He only fits into ONE of them. What is the point of the “Choosing a God” link at the top of this page? Either it says, to Hell with truth, just do what you want.” or it serves to dillute truth by acting like a Travel Guide that has no idea of what the destinations are.

  6. Jeff Says:

    Dave –

    Thanks for posting.

    God doesn’t bend to whomever we want God to be. That’s exactly the point. Many times we use religion to define God exactly on our terms, not Gods. Religions are a useful scaffolding God uses to reveal himself, but if we forget that they are not God himself, then we have missed the point.

    j


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