Tag Archives: Images of God

Overflowing measures

We are made in the image of Godde.

Admittedly that is easier to see in some people than others but every human, all creation in fact somehow reflects the sacredness and beauty of God. The human has intrinsic worth and dignity and life is therefore a good. I think that is how I have to read David’s grandiose refusal to slay “the Lord’s anointed” because in fact I am frustrated by this King, by this rich and powerful man choosing to prolong war (ie ultimately killing so many people who I suppose he deems as less worthy) instead of quickly putting an end to it by killing Saul. Instead David is reconciled with Saul, predictably has to flee for his life again and carries out raids (on invisible others) to sustain himself.

I can’t bring myself to believe that this militaristic, elitist attitude is the word of God (no, not even if we talk about historical context), but I can see how we ended up with clergy who think that being “anointed” they are above the law and can get away with atrocities.

Sorry lectionary, I tried to let what you said have some good in it, but I am too angry. I have to speak truth for the people who have left “the faith” because of our refusal to confront what is unhealthy in our tradition. Some parts of the bible just tell me about toxic masculinity and militarism and I see something so sinful being aligned with Godde and I must be honest that THIS IS NOT THE GODDE I KNOW.

I met Godde again this week through some human beings and birds splashing around in bird-baths and in the taste of a single perfect fig and the bitterness of wonderfully brewed coffee as well as in meaningful work (too much of it). Through the voices of my wise children and one beloved and generous voice. Godde looked at me and said “you know me, I am here” and I can’t unknow that to believe patriarchal words written down centuries ago.

But the psalm reassures me that God is kind and merciful and will pardon all my “iniquities” even perhaps if I accidentally or through stubbornness write heresy (I can only be honest about what come through in my prayer life). As a mother wants to see the best in her children and gently teach them to think more deeply, so God will have gentle teaching-instinct toward me.

The second reading also puzzles me coming across as a “typical man” (apologies to my male adult children who are not like this), compartmentalising things that should flow together, making a false binary only in order to hold it in tension. Earthliness and spirit should not be two different things and I though that was precisely the point of the Jesus story. Of course Eve (usually blamed for Adam’s sin) does not even appear in this argument, Jesus is the “second man” a representative only of Adam and not of Eve. I will stick to my rainbow lorikeets and my sarcastic feminist friend as images of God and remember to add to them the gleaming sun slipping into the ocean, people opening their door and offering me a glass of water on a hot summer’s day when I am being a politician, and the adjective “amazing” used to reassure a new worker. God is in earthly spiritual things and in spiritually earthed things too. God is in the generosity of Eve as much as in the curiosity of Adam and if there is sin, the sin is throwing each other under the bus and forgetting that God is love.

I work with naughty toddlers, delightful toddlers, toddlers we have to reprove one minute and comfort and affirm the next (or quicker) so I think I know these things. In a beautiful church garden this week they ran straight to the “forbidden” tree of unripe apples and when we pulled them back they still found a way to sneak back there and each grab one. Earthly toddlers like Eve, like Adam. Their teachers and parents still love them AND SO DOES GOD. Jesus was born a baby as a toddler he must surely have stretched his plump and tiny hand out to forbidden things and cried when he was told “no” and done it anyway. It’s not a sin to yearn to know the world and to discover your own agency. It is a sin though when curiosity and desire for self-actualisation becomes greed and cruelty and that can happen too. Jesus chose not to go down the path of “power at the cost of others” and that is where we too must draw the line. Adam was new to all this let’s remember (and Adam’s first admission was how dysfunctional he was without an “other” so it makes no sense to write Eve out of the story). Let’s move on to the gospel.

Jesus in the gospel is not (I hope) advocating for a doormat disposition but for a courageous attitude that is radically peaceful and loving. Jesus himself showed anger at times (in context) and spoke out against wrongdoing and injustice in the strongest possible terms. But Jesus here is saying that to love those who massage our egos is easy and no sort of a virtue at all. The challenge is to love the difficult ones, the impossible ones, the hurting and hurtful ones, the so broken they can damage us ones. I am reminded that really I do not love Scott Morrison. I could try to paint an insincere smile on my face and talk about his “intrinsic worth” as a human being but I am not feeling it. I think I was better at that when I was younger, I sincerely loved everyone, even people who I didn’t think were very good. I don’t know what to do now except challenge myself that I am supposed to love, that I can express needed critical perspectives but need to leave room for people to be called by God to do the right thing after all. I challenge myself to keep my criticism measured and relevant to the issue and not to let hate be my motivating factor. I need to see the humanity in Nicole Flint’s eyes when we have to meet for various forums. I have been asked not to “go easy on Nadia Clancy” and I won’t, but at the end of the day she is a human being and possibly trying to do her best as I am trying to do mine.

Part of loving others is holding on to the knowledge that I too might be wrong and flawed and full of sin and nevertheless loveable and beloved. I have been my own enemy, when I was younger and loved others so easily then my one enemy that I couldn’t love was myself. My call to challenge myself to love more was my call into not neglecting the needs of the child of God that was myself. Somebody I once read long ago wrote that the bible was written for men, but women sometimes commit the equal and opposite sin, instead of emphasising the self over other they may idolatrise the other (especially the man) and neglect the self. Of course being an intersectional feminist I can understand this as being about privilege and see that I can simultaneously oppress some others and idolatrise others. My love needs to flow to whoever is neglected in my understanding of Goddeness.

Thus loving self and loving other are twin challenges and as we perfect our love for one of these we may also discover a better means to the other.

I wrote these words this morning before church, but at church I discovered that the person preaching had also wrestled with the first and second readings and had discovered she found a much better grounding for the gospel in an except from John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty. I have run with a picture of that book in which O’Donohue finds (much as I did above) that any act of caring that we engage with or that we are blessed by shows us the presence of God.

As we challenge ourselves (earthly ones, spirit-filled ones) to be more loving, to care in real and practical and sacramental way; as we see that all of creation is God’s
anointed” and able to break our bread and bring us to life; as we find the gorgeously glowing beauty that is God within our capacity to love and within the capacity of the world to surprise us with beauty we forgive the flawedness of our history at church. We do not forgive as doormats who will allow it to happen. We do not stand idly by while others are oppressed. There is space here for anger.

But there is a space here also to redeem what is good in our tradition- while the Buddhists may talk of karma and the Wiccans have their rule of three we can know that they are right. We too are told the same thing by our own Wisdom (Christ), that the measure which we measure will be measured out to us generously. Abundantly. What we give is what will overflow in being given back to us. May we give love.

Amen. Z�3�����

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Lips, life and liberation

“…this has touched your lips” said the angel.

As a sociologist I find the first reading tantalising. It’s not possible to be purged of the “unclean” discourses of your context in time or space. I think the cultural errors of any age boil down to what “original sin” is, the way that some grace-filled possibilities are shut off, rendered unsayable or drowned in a mire of the “inevitable”, we cannot even see our error because out language sets up binaries and misleading questions with closed off answers.

But the desire to rise above our context and to liberate others from it, this is utterly relatable and I like to think of God as the one who burns through the crap that bogs us down and sends us out to make sense of things after all. “My eyes have seen” something, some beautiful reflection of God’s presence, some possibility for liberation for us all…this is what it means to have “faith” perhaps. The eyes of our spirit yearn not to be enslaved to sin and the overbearing meaningless of the consumerist “life”. We want life to mean something, but meanings elude us.

The drive to speak is familiar, I first felt the need to be a voice, first heard the call I suppose when I was a little girl. “Here I am, send me” or when I try to be humble and not say that, then things fall apart into greyness and fear. Perhaps at times my motives have been mixed with the less than ideal, I have craved status, wanted to be “special” but over the years I learn what hard work it is to be a truth speaker, how easy it is to get it all wrong and how alone you can feel. I learn (with joy) that God has never called only me, not even mainly me. And then I can reclaim pride not as an individualising sin “I am better than the others” but as a virtue “I am made in God’s image like you, and you, and you, and our sister”.

The apparent pride that put me off in the first reading, has served instead to interrogate and redeem me as still called (among others).

I am feeling that psalm today, partly as I reflect on my call and my co-travellers with their calls too. God has answered my prayer and whenever I think of God listening to me and bringing me out of despair it brings me back to the huge transformation of my life when I realised the obvious (that I was a lesbian) and the way this identity has increasingly been a blessing in my life. I haven’t had lovers but I don’t want to make a virtue of that or pretend that “celibacy” is the only or best option for queer folk. I will be honest there is nothing celibate about my mindset I just have not found someone I can share and celebrate this with in that way.

Ironically the “uncleanness” that I needed a coal set to, to burn away, was not my lesbian identity at all but my inability to see God’s grace and act of co-creation in who I was. My being PRAISES God in a way that my self-hate never did. As the psalm rejoices at God “you built up strength within me” oh yes she did and she has not finished. Through the grace of God and the grace of everyone I travel with I am getting STRONGER. I can depend on Wisdom within and outside of myself (in both places for balance). God has placed gentle hands on me, like a sort of spiritual chiropractor or masseur, repairing and working with what is there to bring out the best in me. As the psalm tells me I will not be abandoned, I am not yet my perfect being but God is still working on that with me.

Some of this may sound arrogant but it is as true for an ant or a blade of grass as it is for me. We are extremely significant and “special” but not more so than each other. We have the responsibility to respond authentically and to grow with God into the gentle movements of God’s healing hands on us. Someone smiled at me this week and God was absolutely in her smile and I saw my own goodness and beauty in this wonderful person’s face. Everything reminds me of that moment. I saw God in a person, who is objectively probably as flawed as me. But who wants to be objective when they see God?

I won’t spend long on the second reading (read it) but I feel it is paraphrasing the same thing I am trying to say. Paul (or someone) is finding his place in the community of transformation, he is trying to articulate the pride and joy of that without coming across as arrogant. He is working to show that God is behind all these feelings of belonging and hope, God’s beautiful face shines out at us in the communities that accept us (and sometimes one person).

In the gospel Jesus uses the identities of Simon and the sons of Zebedee as the places where they can encounter God. He makes following God about being a fisherman (just as Wisdom makes following God for me about motherhood, writing, being queer or caring). In a way there is a “leaving behind” that happens, after the encounter with Jesus the fishermen are transformed but they are “fishing for people” their vocation is still a continuation and celebration of the way they know themselves.

I have always found this reading terrifying and mysterious because there is no flesh-and-blood Jesus I can unambiguously follow down the coast and away…I have to always find my way and strain to hear an ambiguous call. Perhaps I underestimate the leap of faith (and questioning and at times depression) of the apostles, who are portrayed as just “knowing” Jesus, recognising him in a flash. Perhaps it was not so easy (it is not so easy for any of us except the sociopaths who end up doing untold harm). What is the “everything” that I have to leave? I cannot speak to people if I make myself too alien to them. I cannot set myself apart from the world I must live in for practical reasons (I need to feed and home myself or die) and for spiritual reasons (separateness leads to vanity and irrelevance). The question of faith is the same as the question of politics. How do we authentically be with others (a splintered individualist approach achieves nothing) but do not become “sell outs”? When do lines need to be drawn? Where is the most honest place to draw them? How do we leave everything and yet bring everything with us?

The fact that all my spiritual “insights” lead to unanswered questions is frustrating but simply means I am not dead yet. This week I am a person who was smiled at. I want to curl up in a little ball and do nothing ever again and simply save that moment to myself…that is not how it works. Within the full net is not solace forever but a call further. God provides for us so that we can grow to be the ones who bring it. The moment of grace is always that, always the moment of having to stretch ourselves and follow more deeply.

I can only try.

I can only try.

Someone has said it better than I can

I want to share this powerful preaching, this painting. It is so good I felt I had to share it here (and in several other places)

 

http://mysteriousearth.net/2017/05/31/this-artist-painted-god-as-a-black-woman-and-got-a-lot-of-people-mad/

 

I find in this painting the Word and good news of Godde

😉