I am not sure our little progressive church startup got more attention than when this picture of Eliza in front of our banner outside of the First Unitarian Church of San Jose went viral on social media.
God is not a boy’s name is a simple saying that sparked fascinating conversation and debates. Some of my friends and colleagues said well of course, God is not a person, God is a presence a power. Some were incensed. Like later when I had the banner behind me while a stood in front of a table blessing dogs at Bark in the Park, one woman snapped at me and said that meant I didn’t believe in Jesus.
If Jesus is a man, Jesus is God, God is a boy’s name.
But I said, if one understands Jesus to be pointing to God and manifesting God, we can still say that God is not a boy’s name. Some of in our community said of course and used the language of Star Wars, God is a not a person, but a person can manifest the Force and May the Force be With you.
Interestingly this is clearly a rich theological debate inspired by the occasion of a simple slogan.
In Judaism, God’s name is so holy you don’t even pronounce it fully.
As someone who cherishes science and the wonder of the cosmos, I have landed in a place where God is a three-letter place holder for the truth that there is more going on than I am generally able to perceive. It is an inadequate way of saying I am invested in awe. I accept my own insignificance. I do not know and yet.
In a political climate where so much hate and harm is being done in the name of religious convictions, I find myself wanting to boldly reclaim God. In mainstream American culture, God has become dressed with capitalism, militarism, racism, sexism and more. God has become more like Caesar than Jesus.
Apparently the God this country loves, supports lying and cheating and dropping drones on innocent people, as if the King needs a few sacrifices here and there.
But even when the dominant culture preaches and teaches and spouts that God endorses hate and violence and inequity, we must reclaim the God, to which Jesus points. Because the Spirit that showed up in him, the way he lived and did his final journey was not as a king with an army, but a peacemaker who taught lessons by asking questions, a man who dined with those cast aside and lead alongside women.
In the time when the Psalms were sung, people believed the world was something like a metal dome and stars were holes poked in the top. For the LORD, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth…who maybe sat upon the dome. God was of course, then up and away.
It is a precious thing that we have a spiritual community here that is rooted in the Wisdom of Christian teachings and also diverse in our thinking about who and what and if God is- among us are agnostics and conventional Christians, spiritual independents, people of conscience and progressive Christians, among us are images of the Holy as an invisible force, a power, a whisper, a lure, a humming.
Right now in our country and in our world, I want to reclaim the God to which Jesus points. God is not a man in the clouds waiting for you to fall short. That is Santa Claus.
For me when God is no longer king, magic happens because our role changes from bowing down because we have messed up or because we can never be worthy- our lives become about tuning in, being of use, seeking guidance and wisdom, loving ourselves and others into forgiveness and always growing more fully into who we are summoned to become. What name do you hold for God? Who is the holy for you?
Who or what or if God is for you? There is room for you, here, sing praises with a Psalm!
I will close with a reimagining of this ancient text from Psalm 47 on this Mother’s Day weekend and then we will have some moments of silence.
47:6 Sing praises to the Cosmos, sing praises; sing praises to our Greater Love, sing praises from all directions, sideways, below, above.
47:7 For God is the Life Force of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm. Sing praises all day long.
47:8 God is present among all the nations; God sides with not just one.
47:9 The leaders of the peoples gather as now as one. Humankind should lay down the shields, all of the earth belongs to God, the One;
He is highly exalted. She is highly exalted. It is highly exalted.
Who or what or if God is for you? There is room. No need to bow down. Get busy singing and dancing. Sing praises to the Cosmos.
May it be so.