Engaging this module
You are invited to explore this module by reading the content, watching the presentations and videos and responding to the suggested exercises and activities. You are encouraged to have a Bible and journaling materials nearby to take notes.
Who is God?
- Write down the top five adjectives you would use to describe God.
- What do these adjectives tell you about who God has been for you in your life? About who you want God to be for you in your life now and in the future?
- Name one or two things you have heard about God that you do not understand and have not experienced.
- What are you still seeking to learn or understand about God?
GOD BEYOND IMAGES AND WORDS, TRANSCENDENT AND IMMANENT
Who is God? How do we describe God? We have looked at images that remind us of God and explored the language we have drawn on throughout the centuries to describe God and the Trinity such as creator, redeemer, sustainer, father, mother, king, shepherd, judge, faithful, and love. Yet, even as we describe God, we know our words and images fall short of our experiences of God. In this section we are going to explore two of those experiences: 1) The times we feel God so close (there to hear our borning cry), and those times we experience God as beyond any created form or space (in light inaccessible, hid from our eyes). The theological terms used to describe these experiences are immanence and transcendence. While our tendency may be to see these as opposites, they exist together on the spectrum of our experiences of God’s presence and power in the world.
God is both close to us and bigger than anything we can fathom:
1. God is in us and creation
- Listen to “I was There to Hear Your Borning Cry” or “God of Great and God of Small.”
- Read Hosea 11:1-4 and John 10:1-18.
- Journal: What are the characteristics of God in the hymn and scripture passages? How is God described as close at hand in these two examples?
2. God is all powerful and outside of creation
- Listen to “Holy, Holy, Holy” or “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.” [need links]
- Read John 1:1-18 and Job 28.
- Journal: What are the characteristics of God in this hymn and scripture passage? How is God described as unknowable and distinct from humanity and creation?
- Of these two ways of experiencing God, very close, or above and beyond us, which one do you resonate with more when it comes to understanding God?
- Is it easier to see God very close and in all things or is it easier to see God in the vastness of the universe, bigger and beyond all things? Why?
- How do you most often experience God and God’s work?
This presentation will explore God’s immanence and transcendence. If you would like to read along with the presentation, please click on the button below to download the transcript.
CREATED IN GOD’S IMAGE: CALLED TO LIVE IMAGE IN ACTION
Watch this video to hear what other Christian educators and faith formation have to say about being created in the image of God.
“GOD IN WORDS”
In the section, “God in Words,” five (5) descriptive titles for God are highlighted in an activity: Sovereign, Love, Provider, Planner, and Holy. These illustrative terms can be used to point to how God invites us to live; each one can be reflected in our individual and communal lives. Humans are created in God’s image and have a responsibility to reflect God in their actions. While we are not God, we strive through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit to live holy and joyful lives that reveal God in the world.
God is Sovereign
God is Sovereign. God’s sovereignty over all creation calls us to responsibility and caretaking roles for one another and the created world. When God gave humans dominion/authority over all the things on earth, God gave us responsibility for the world God loves.
We reveal God’s sovereign love and care when we care for the creation, work to see God’s rule influence the whole of our individual and institutional lives – seeking justice, freedom, and peace for all in God’s name, and act to restore relationships broken by systemic and individual sin.
God is Love
God is Love. Love is the greatest gift of all. Therefore, we are called to love, and live in love, to show others the love of God.
We show God’s love when we welcome others into our communities of faith regardless of their race, ethnicity, culture, gender identity, sexuality, economic status, or political affiliation. We show God’s love in how we treat and include the ‘least of these’ in our communities of faith (Matthew 25), including, for example, welcoming all ages and stages to participate in and lead worship. We show God’s love when we reach into and beyond our community in partnership and solidarity, with hands and hearts of love.
As God’s children, we are called to reflect the acts of a generous and gracious God who provides for all our needs.
As a community of faith, we show that God provides all we need by serving our community – as a congregation, in partnership with local organizations, and ecumenically. Feed the hungry, clothing the naked, providing safe water for the thirsty, visiting prisoners, and offering comfort to those suffering in mind, body, and spirit are real expressions of gratitude for, and stewardship of, all God’s provision.
God has a plan
As the Master Planner, God calls us to live in trust, seek understanding, and act boldly to accomplish God’s plan as we and our faith communities comprehend it.
To proclaim God has a plan is an act of Hope. We witness to this hope in the ways we point out God’s work in the world where justice, peace, and joy are flourishing. We witness to this in the ways we gather as a community through our ordered worship and commitment to covenant community.
God is Holy
When we affirm our relationship with God and promise to walk in God’s ways, we accept the challenge to live holy lives in response to, and shaped by, God’s holiness.
All of creation reflects God’s holiness. We honor God by living lives that are holy (set apart); lives that recognize a God of love rules our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. How we speak to folks we both agree and disagree with, for example, reveals God’s holiness by rejecting harmful practices that divide neighbor from neighbor. How we care for the resources God has given us, how we worship with praise and devotion, how we withhold judgement and practice confession and forgiveness, all reveal and reflect a God who is Holy.
GOD AND EVIL
Read from A Declaration of Faith*
God called all he had made good.
We declare that the universe of matter, energy, and life
is God’s good creation in all its parts.
Even though evil has emerged within God’s creation,
we may work and play in it
and explore it with wonder and joy.
Evil is whatever works against the loving purpose of God
for human beings and all creation.
Natural forces may have evil effects.
Sinful human choices produce evil results.
Evil may become institutionalized in our social structures.
The power of evil to hurt and destroy,
to cut off the possibilities of full human life,
calls into question the power and goodness of God.
Whether we understand evil personally or impersonally,
we cannot explain how it originated in a world made good.
But we can affirm that evil is God’s enemy as well as ours.
In Christ, God shared our agony over evil
and broke the back of its power
by bearing the worst it could do.
God works continually to overcome evil.
In the end it will be utterly defeated.
Therefore we have courage to endure evil,
to learn from it, and combat it.
In a journal, with a respected friend and/or with a pastor or mentor, reflect on these questions:
How does A Declaration of Faith describe:
- What is God’s will?
- What is evil?
- If you had to talk to someone about something terrible that happened, what from this statement might be helpful?
- If you had to teach on evil and God’s goodness, how would this statement be of use? What else might you draw on?