Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Picturing God

Today, January 13, 2013, is often called the Baptism of the Lord (First Sunday after the Epiphany)
Readings suggested for today are: 
Isaiah 43:1-7 Psalm 29 Acts 8:14-17 Luke 3:15-17, 21-22I

If you were to draw a picture of God
what would you draw?
Some of our fellow monotheists (that is believers in one God)...the Jews and the Moslems
find this idea of representing God
to be so slippery an idea
that they forbid it all together.
If you go into a mosque or a synagogue
although you will find elaborate decoration
(Islamic art represents some of the highest forms of decorative art the world has ever seen)

you will find no human form, or even animal form represented
we call this idolatry.

We are profoundly aware that any attempt to represent God will fall far short.
Any picture we draw will be some how inadequate
and contentious.
It will cause offence because of this.

This is of course true not only of visual artbut also of the written word.
We only have to start talking about our experience of God
to realise that the words fail us.
It is easy and tempting to be simplistic and paint or write about God.
But we should always be aware that our words will fail

and our pictures will be inadequate
they are only like a calculus 

which draws close to the ultimate expression
but they never quite get there.

I don't think this should prevent us from trying
but there is a serious warning here.
The warning is not about what might happen to us 

if we should somehow stumble across the face of God
The warning is about making God in our own image.
Some current reflections about this include:

==>We need to recognise that language is only an approximation of our understanding about God
when we call God HE and even FATHER
we are using the approximations of finite language
to describe the infinite.
God is not a man, nor even a superman!
God is not male or female at all.
We use our limited language
to try and express what we cannot fully understand.
Some of us think this doesn't matter,
but others of us find this deeply alienating.

==>We do need to respect other people
and not just brush their reservations aside.
What this reminds us of is that one of the attitudes that we have to adopt towards God
is one of openness.
recognising that we are limited 

and God is infinite.
This should warn us against being dogmatic about what God is like

let US not pretend that WE
with our limited understandings can ever understand
God in entirety.

We are  challenged  to always be open to the fact that God presents to you and me

something that is other than ourselves
These are some more intellectual reflections for us in this Epiphany season
when we focus on how God is made known to us.

==>But we need also to be in touch with the emotional and spiritual understandings,
which is perhaps more where you and I are situated;
in the realm of EXPERIENCE.

The same warnings apply;
we need to be critical of our experience
and recognise that ours is not the only experience.
Nor do we always understand it properly.
When, for example, we are sad when someone dies
we could suggest that that is because "God has let us down"
or even that "God doesn't work"
if we are more open and positive we might say "We do not understand God's will".

You don't have to think very hard to realise that all of these statements are not complete.
They do express something, but they are attempting to express the unknowable.

St Paul reminds us in that famous we only see through a glass dimly,
but then we shall see face to face, with understanding.

So again we need to be cautious to not jump too quickly
and say God is like this or God is like that.

We want it to be simple, but it is not.
We want, all the time to be able to define God.
But in so doing all we succeed in doing is limiting our understanding.

Now we see only dimly.
What is God inviting us to understand:

By being born as a baby?
By dying as a man?
By being really present in this sacrament?
By sometimes seeming totally absent?
By saying that we are made in God's image-male and female?

As we look for understanding
What does God also invite us to do and be in our lives?
These are Epiphany questions,
we get the answers wrong if we think they are easy.

We become idolaters, when we mistake the wrong answers for the truth.

Pray that the Holy Spirit of God will open our hearts to see and believe
the truth of God
and to live with the courage that we do not and cannot know everything

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