The God You Don’t Believe In: The Sermon

Since so many people requested a copy of the sermon mentioned in yesterday’s post “The God You Don’t Believe In“, I’m happy to be able to share it courtesy of Rev. Lynda Hodgins of Millbrook United Church. Thank you for your beautiful and enlightening words.

The God You Don’t Believe In

Who is the God you don’t believe in?

In the passage we shared this morning we see Moses having a close up encounter with God.

meeting God on the mountain top to establish  a new covenant or partnership between God and the people of God… a covenant renewed in Jesus and still in place today.

A partnership in which,  God stated…’You will be my people,  and I will be your God.’

But who is this God we are in partnership with?

What is God like.

Even Moses  does not really get to know.

Moses is allowed to see God more up close than anyone else has ever been able to see,
-but still,   Moses was only allowed a fleeting glance from  the back  as God passed by.

So we really don’t know what God is like

We each have our ideas;

-for some God may be that grey haired old man in a white robe

-for some maybe there is no visual image so much as an idea… you might understand  God more as the energy that lies behind the creation of  life.

– maybe others of you have had a sense  of   God when you have stood on a mountain  top.

-I spent a week in Alberta in the Rockies over new years    and I know I understood when I stood there why since ancient times people have written  word such as ;

I lift my eyes to the hills …

In those mountains I understood why the ancient people understood God to dwell on mountain Zion -…a high holy place.
… there  was for me a real presence of the Holy in the  mountains.

Or. Maybe for you it is  the ocean… or a newborn baby, or in certain music .

We all see glimpses of God in many different  places

but my question today is who is the god you don’t believe in?

There are many in our communities and our families who do not believe in God in any form.

I suspect there are many among you who have friends  or children or grand children  or neighbors who have  said something like;
– I don’t believe in God,’ or
– I would like to believe but I just can’t… to many rotten thing happening in the world today

I have had several interesting conversations  with my own sons who delight in telling me why they do not believe.

I was always at a bit of a loss for words when that happened.
To believe in  God is a choice .
We must each decide if we believe,  or  not.

and should someone choose not to believe,  I find it is very difficult to prove the existence of God.

Maybe that is why I was so intrigued when I read a story of the theology professor and well known preacher Harry Emerson Fostick who was teaching a university religion class.

At the end of a lecture a young student came up to Rev. Dr Fostick   and asked  to  speak to him.

Fostick was pleased to speak  with the young man  who then made his pronouncement ;
-You know,  I don’t believe  in God.’

Fostick looked calmly at the young man for a moment.     Is that so’ he said.

Yes’ reiterated the young scholar, I  have thought about it and I decided I do not believe  in God

Well’ said Fostick,  Please tell me about this God you don’t believe in,  chances   are I don’t believe in that God either.’

Isn’t that brilliant.
No fighting,  no convincing, no proof being offered.
…Just tell me about the God you don’t believe in.

since I heard  that story I have used that response a few times and ended up in really interesting conversations .
– once the conversation gradually revealed in the person I was speaking with,  an image of God who was a sort of  old grey haired warrior of a man sitting on a thrown in heaven,
– armed with a lightening bolt and super x-ray vision and watching eternally for  lowly humans  committing  sin  so that lightning bolts could be hurled their way.

As those images of God  were looked  at more deeply, I was able to say in each case, well no I don’t believe in that God either.

Sometime the God we do not believe in tell us as much about our faith as the God we do believe in.

What is the character of the God you don’t believe in,
-and what is the character of the God you do believe in?

The bible passages that has  been treasured and handed down to us contain  a collection of images, writings and  experiences of   various people who have, just like us,  struggled  to come to understand God.

So I guess it should come as no surprise  that such a collection of writings would contain different images and understandings of  the character of God, just as if we were  to each write about our experience or understanding of God we would likely not all write the same thing.

For some, God was and is the vengeful warrior.

-the angry God who calls for slaughter of enemies and was there jubilant as the battlefield soaked up the blood of enemy  woman and children…

– and in one particularly nasty little psalm God even calls for the people to smash the heads of the  enemies children against the  rocks… not hard to imagine the image of God the writer of that psalm believed in.

For others, God is understood  more like the mother hen working to comfort and protect her beloved chicks in the warmth and comfort  of her wings… yes, that is another image of God we read in the bible

or a rock, strong, solid , immovable.

Even when we come to  the new testament we have from the different writers somewhat  different viewpoints about who God is or what the character of God is.

I believe the best insight into the character of God is Jesus.

It seems  to me if we really want to know , we look at what Jesus said about the nature of God

and it seems to me Jesus did not seem to worry so much about the God with the lightning bolts, or God the vengeful warrior

God is much larger than any of our words and any of our images

God may be a father like figure for you, or a grand fatherly.

.. or God may be a motherly figure for you. I have known many people who had very difficult and abusive relationships with their own fathers and could not trust a Нfather’ God, when they imagined god as a more loving grandmother , they could believe and trust.

So it is not so much the gender of God,  Who I strongly suspect has no  gender at all, but the character of God that is the issue. And the character of God Jesus can teach us much about.

The God Jesus speaks of is a God defined by love.

In fact when you read carefully in the old testament, it is also a God of love who is defined there but so often it was the punishing, raging judging God we all learned about.

But Jesus talks about a God who is not sitting there waiting to punish us for  sin.

Jesus speak of a God who is overcome with love for us;
… a God whose parental right it is to simply delight in us as children.
well after many, many years of thinking deeply about this issue,  years of study and prayer this now t my image of the God I do believe in.

My image of God is a  holy parent so in love with  us that he or she can hardly wait until we come to understand and then   turn and climb into the lap of love and just allow ourselves to be loved into wholeness and well being.

God waiting for us to return to the arms of a love that waits for us .. in times of prayer, in times of relaxation, in time of doing nothing but simply being and resting in the presence of a love so great we can feel it enfold us… .

The God I do not believe in is the  God sitting waiting to punish me or anyone else for the mistakes we make  each  day or to control all the events that happen each day in our lives. .

We will have times when we fail, when we make mistakes, when we sin

Just as our children fell as they were learning to walk and just as they made mistakes a they grew , so we will fall as we try to live following the path Jesus came to show us.

But just as we did not stop loving   the little ones we loved when they fell trying to take their first steps, so  the God I believe in does not  fall on us with punishment when we fail.

God waits in love, calls us to  listen to Jesus message and to  try again.

– to turn again toward the light of  love and  maybe, next time,  get it right

-to love  our neighbors, share with one another , and do what we can to build a better and more fair world for everyone.

and  the God I believe  in, waits  in eternal love for us to understand and of our own free will draw close , ask if we can just rest in  holy lap of love and have a chat about all the worries and burdens and fears we have.

So what is the character  of your God?

What God do you believe in , and what God do you not believe in?

And the next time someone says  to you that they don’t believe in God, ask them to tell you about the God they don’t believe in, for I suspect there are many who have discarded a God of vengeance and  punishment ,  but would be very happy to be introduced to the God of love , understanding and  grace,

maybe you can even introduce them to one another.

and in the mean time I invite you to get to know the God I do believe in a bit better. Some day just curl up for a quiet rest, imagine yourself climbing into God’s lap, or sitting down under a shady tree beside God, and just rest, have a quiet gentle chat, don’t worry about a big fancy prayer, don’t worry about getting all the words just right… Just  tell God about how the kids and grand-kids are doing, about how you are worried about your next doctors appointment, how you are lonely or worried or way too busy.

Or do nothing at all but just rest and imagine God holding you close .

It is God’s parental right to simply delight as you as a beloved child,
but for that to happen, you need to find the time and the inclination to return to that divine lap and to trust in that divine love .

The God you believe I n , and the God you don’t believe in. Think about it .   And may you come to know your God and Your God’s love for you. Amen


3 thoughts on “The God You Don’t Believe In: The Sermon

  1. Pingback: The God You Don’t Believe In – Plowing in Pearls

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this with us and very thought provoking too. Thanks again!
    I’m hosting a weekly linky at Natural Mothers Network which is all about seasonal celebration and would love it if you popped over and linked a post! It would be great to introduce your blog to my subscribers! Seasonal Celebration Linky Really hope to see you there! Rebecca x

    • Thank you so much for the invitation! What an honor 🙂 I’ll post something appropriate right away. Thanks so much for stopping by! I love meeting new, amazing bloggers!

I love hearing from you and read (and try to respond to) every comment. Thank-you for taking the time to write one! "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." Ephesians. 4:29

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