(You can view video of this sermon here.)
What words or images evoke the Divine for you? Evoke God?
I’ve posed this question this week to folks in the orbit of our church, on our email list and on Facebook.
I pose this question to you now.
If you want, you can share your responses in the comments – I’d love to hear from you.
What words or images evoke the Divine for you?
The responses folks have shared with week have been really lovely and really interesting. So I want to share them with you and we can reflect on them.
A couple of people responded with a wise warning about even asking such a question. There’s danger with this question, because, hey, the Reality of the Divine is beyond words and images. The “G-word” is just a gesture.
Names and images limit God. Just painting a theological picture, defining, framing it, saying This Is God to me transgresses the 2nd commandment. I can name God… just leave His/Her/Their picture I painted unfinished and thereby God remains as God.
Another person wrote:
There’s a reason for the attribution “ineffable.” I never eff with God.
And now that’s a keeper, that quote. I love it.
Don’t eff with the ineffable. We’re out of our depths here, kids.
Judaism and Islam and Eastern Orthodox Christianity are in their different ways very careful about having proper reverence for the mystery and majesty of the Holy One. They avoid getting too caught up in defining the Divine. Names, words, images can quickly become idols, that’s the danger. They’re suspicious of how Western Christianity – Catholicism and Protestantism – can get so focused on dogmas and creeds that define God. That’s legitimate.
At the same time, this is part of who we are as humans. We talk, we tell stories, we make art about what’s important to us.
We do form certain ideas about God that really shape who we are. For better and for worse.
We do have sacred experiences that we want to remember and to share with others. And certain kinds of experiences and certain kinds of ideas are really worth trying to share because they can help each other deepen our relationships with the Divine, with each other, with ourselves, with the world.
So, with some words of warning, let me share with you more of what people said in response to this question:
What words or images evoke the Divine for you?
Let’s allow what people have shared to indeed evoke God for us, so I invite you to listen in a prayerful way:
Infinite, grounded and groundless
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. The breath that sustains and grounds
My most Joy comes in the experience of connection, communion, grace, and the Divine presence that surrounds me.
Just one word – Love.
More than one person said that, Love.
Peaceful backbone of humanity.
My friend JESUS.
That’s what evokes the divine … and I love that, “friend.”
The relief of warmth after having been thoroughly chilled.
Eugene Burnand (a Swiss painter from the late 1800’s) painted Peter and John racing to the tomb. It is called ‘Les disciples Pierre et Jean courant au sépulcre le matin de la Résurrection’. The hope etched on their faces at dawn… God is the inspirer and author of such hope.
Native weavers always leave a Spirit line in their rugs. To me it speaks to how my spirit is in my work but always more. The weavers say it allows the spirit to escape
every. single. solitary. thing. i see and feel.
that which connects us and draws us beyond,
Someone told me:
I gave up trying to describe how I felt about some music.
I sing How Great Thou Art to invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit, especially when preparing to pray.
Someone else quoted another hymn:
“You are Love, You are Light, You are Lord over everything. Alpha, Omega, Jehovah the King of Kings, Wonderful Way-maker worthy of my offering. Hallowed be Thy name!”
“The Eternal Spirit in which we live and move and have our being”
The sound of the wind in a wild place
When I first paddle out after a long dry spell and I just let the board float my upper half while the bottom dangles in the water. Up and down with the waves…feels like I’m playing in the folds of mama goddess’s skirt
The late afternoon sun coming through the woods and hearing the song of the wood thrush Reminds me of our Creator.
The symmetry and beauty in electron cloud orbitals reminds me that atoms didn’t have to be that beautiful but were made that way anyway
Wood grain was always the thing for me. When I pray with my eyes closed, my mind would always wander to so many places so quickly. But focusing on the wood grain of the pew or table or chair in front of me would be a perfectly organic, random, beautiful representation of God’s creation, that has always been the easiest place for me to ‘find God’ – if only by keeping my own mind still enough to communicate better.
The miracle of birds often does it for me. I’ve just read a description of a Great Blue Heron standing in a river, “without a ripple, ” evoking for the viewer Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”
The lone tree in the field whose roots grow throughout the whole, giving oxygen to keep us alive
The horizon line on the ocean.
heavenly sunshine (beams of light shining through clouds)
The sound of wind chimes gently ringing
Moderate rain with the thunder and lightning
Gold & pink sunset
A rain stick clattering slowly
The music that goes through my head.
I receive my best assurances of God’s power and presence in nature (can’t exclude human love and a new-born baby in that of course!!)
A wonderful, immense tree–The General Sherman Tree. It’s cited as The World’s Largest Living Thing. It’s not the oldest tree, but is very old (between 2300 and 2700 years.) This tree is in the forest, surrounded by other giant sequoias as well as young trees. One walks down a pathway to view it. It’s so beautiful and majestic; being in its presence is prayerful for me.
I feel close to God and more apt to pray when I am looking at the star-filled night sky late at night. I usually let the dogs out for the last time around 12:30 or 1:00 am, and while I am waiting for them, I like to pray and enjoy the silence of the night.
Someone shared the NASA picture of the Pillars of Creation:
These are giant columns of gas and dust 6,500 light-years away that are incubating stars. Young stars are forming inside these Pillars of Creation.
When I’m in the Wallowa mountains (or other places that are removed from most signs of human habitation) on a starry night. I look up in awe at the hugeness and beauty of the universe. I feel close to God and I also feel that I am a very blessed speck in this amazing universe.
Wow. Thank you everyone for these. Please keep them coming, this is awesome.
Now, what do you notice about these words and these images and what they evoke?
What are some themes? Connection with the natural world. Music. Words that evoke love. Laughter of children. My friend Jesus. Words that evoke expansiveness and calm. And there are some juicy paradoxes: Infinite, groundless ground.
And then notice also what your responses don’t evoke.
These are not words and images about judgment or guilt or shame. These aren’t about experiences of overpowering dominant force or of fear or of violence.
Instead these are experiences of beauty, of expansiveness, of mystery, of awe, of harmony, experiences of the creative forces at work through creation. These are experiences of connection, of interconnection, of reverence, of support and of love as a “blessed speck” within what is infinite. Truly worthy of reverence, and of our deepest commitment.
This is really important to name – about what who and what God has been revealed to us to be and to not be. This is really important to name and to honor when it comes to responding to and sharing how the Divine is on the move through of our community of faith.
So, thank you for being a part of that.
And, as always, thanks be to God.