Thursday, March 22, 2012


I find asking the question, "What is God?", is my attempt to contain make the Mystery more manageable.

And my answers to the question are best revealed by the followiing story I once used in a sermon:

It was 6-year old Billy's first visit to the ocean, and he had planned his mission for 'Show and Tell' before he got there.

Wading out into the surf, he carried an empty mayonaise jar which he dipped into the water.
The jar was filled almost instantaneously and he quickly put the lid on the jar.

When he went back to school, he carried his jar with him.
When it was his turn for 'Show and Tell', he proudly held up his jar and announced:


Billy's enthusiasm and innocence is sweet...but his jar no more contained the ocean than we can contain G-D.

It seems clear to me that the word "God" means different things to different people.
So do any of us have the right to tell others that we are right and they are wrong?
How do we know?  And to quote the Bible or any religious scripture is to beg the question.

Many consider Hinduism to promote polytheism because Hindus worship hundreds of gods.
But the deeper Hindu understanding according to Swami Satchidananda is that each god represents an aspect of the human experience of the divine.

Actually, we all see and experience the Mystery differently...and some not at all.

Sensory psychologists inform us that we all tend to see what we are trained or choose to look at.
We "see" from different perspectives and seldom, if ever, see the whole picture.
The Apostle Paul recognized this when he said "Now I see through a glass darkly." (I Cor. 13:12)

The Bible itself points to the impenetrable mystery of the divine.
The Psalmist has God saying "My thoughts are above your thoughts..." and Moses asks God:

"What is your name?" and is given the inscrutable Zen-type answer:

Most religions seek to answer the question "What is God?" by promoting a particular belief system based on certain experiences. But this is where the analogy of fleas arguing about who owns the dog applies, for each flea has an "experience" when they take a bite of the dog. But that bite hardly provides an experience or knowledge of the whole dog, much less ownership.

So I am not trying to pursue a religion, but simply trying to understand and develop my own feelings and experiences of G-D... my own  PATCHWORK QUILT SPIRITUALITY.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What is God?

What is God?  Ask 10 people and get 10 different answers. In fact, if you go to the evangelical website you will see the following statement:

"There are over six billion people in this world and each person has his or her own thoughts about God."

Many will say that they believe in God...but actually, the word "God" means different things to different people. That's why philospher/theologian Sam Keen proposed a moratorium on the use of the word a few years ago...and suggested some possible new names:

The Quantum Leaper...The Beyond Within...The Cosmic DNA...The Creating...The Original One...The Alpha and Omega Helix...The Ground and Void of Being...Etc., etc., etc. without End.

The old preacher in the "Kudzu" cartoon series of Doug Marlette (now deceased) offers some friendly advice. Rev. Will B. Dunn is working on his "Tell It to the Preacher" advice column for the newspaper and is reading the following letter:

Dear Preacher,

Do you address the Supreme Being as the "Eternal Thou" like Buber...or do you prefer Tillich's "Ground of Being" or his "Ultimate Concern?"
...or do you use Hegel's "Absolute Spirit" or Rudolph Otto's "Mysterium Tremendum?"

(Sincerely ) Seeker

Then Rev. Will B. Dunn (smiling) types his answer:

Dear Seeker,

You say it Yahweh and I'll say it mine.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

God Talk

"Once upon a time, God lived at the North Pole."

So wrote theologian Robert McAfee Brown in his book, The Gospel According to St. Hereticus.

As a Baby Boomer growing up in the '50's, my image of God as an old, white-haired man sitting on a throne was not unlike the Santa Claus that I loved to visit at the Fowler's Department Store in Binghamton, New York. (I have a wonderful old photo, but I don't know how to upload it!)

Years later, I was still grappling with that image when I entered the seminary in the late 60's and heard the following joke:

"Have you heard about GOD?...She's Black!"

When it comes to human attempts to define or characterize God, we do well to confess that all our efforts are inadequate. Indeed, even that statement "I believe in God" means different things to different people. I recall a story about a college chaplain who was confronted by an angry student, protesting that he did not believe in God. The chaplain simply responded: "Tell me about this God that you do not believe in--maybe I don't believe in that God either."

An old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon makes a similar point. They are sitting on a hill, and Hobbes asks,
"Do  you think there is a God?"
Calvin pauses, and then answers:
"I do believe there is Someone who is out to get me."

If we are honest, we must admit that even the Holy Bible leaves us with questions. One of my favorite cartoons puts it simply, as one angel in heaven asks another angel:

"Is he the God of the Old or the New Testament this morning?" 

Maybe "She" is both and neither!?!