The Message: July 10, 2022, "Who Is God?"

The Message: July 10, 2022, "Who Is God?"

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
July 10, 2022


“Who Is God?”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Genesis 1:1-5; John 1:1-5

            Many moons ago, I served on the Committee for Ministerial Preparation for the Boston Southwest Association of the denomination. The intended purpose of the committee is fairly obvious from its name. We were to assist ministerial candidates prepare for their ordination council and ultimately for their ministry.

            At either the second or third meeting of the committee that I attended, one of the candidates presented the draft of his ordination paper. When we got to the section on “God,” he wrote something to the affect of, “My image of God is …”

            Then a crusty, older gentleman interrupted, “Image of God?! That is idolatry!!” Then he proceeded to list off a number of books that the candidate should read before he came back for his next appearance before his tribunal.

            I am being slightly fresh now, but at the time I did not say anything. I was new to the committee and did not feel that it was my place to argue the candidate’s paper for him. Instead, I invited him to lunch and told him that ‘his paper is his paper. Do not be bullied into writing something that does not reflect what you feel or believe. You do not want to misrepresent yourself to the ordination council.’

            Ultimately, he was successful in the defense of his paper and was ordained.

            What I could have pointed out to my crusty, older colleague, was that the Bible contains dozens of “images” of God. Actually, depending upon how one characterizes the word “image,” scripture contains hundreds of different manifestations and expressions of God’s self. You can probably rattle off a dozen or so without even trying:

            Creator … Light … Love … Word … Shepherd … Alpha and Omega … Almighty King … Father … Mother … Spirit …Mighty Warrior … and so on …

            Some of the “images” of God are descriptive attributes of God: Good, Living, Active, Giving, Forgiving, Refuge, Strength, the True God.

            If you Google “images of God in scripture” as I did, you will receive results that indicate that there are forty, or one hundred, or more images. This may cause conflict in some hearts and minds. They may have trouble reconciling a steadfast, immutable and unchanging God with dozens or hundreds of expressions of God.

            But we know that God can be BOTH immutable and multifaceted. God can be unchanging AND changing. We have discussed this before, it is impossible to capture something as awesome and amazing and stupendously magnificent as God in our limited language and understanding.

            Consider this … try explaining an exquisite sunset or a sumptuous meal to someone. You can offer words that are descriptive of what it looked like, or smelled like, or tasted like. But it is much more difficult to describe that special character of that sunset or that meal … how it made you FEEL in that moment, how it may have affected you. Our language fails us.

            Now, we extrapolate that to the N-th degree when it comes to trying to capture God with words.

            The other reality that we understand is that God is also intimate. God is not distant and aloof. God knows us intimately and knows what we need in any given moment.

            God knows that:

            Sometimes we need a warrior … and other times we need a mother hen.
            Sometimes we need a rock … and other times we need a Spirit.
            Sometimes we need a teacher … and other times we need a friend.
            Sometimes we need a shepherd … and other times we need a beacon.

            So, since we have just finished a week of Vacation Bible School, our message will take a little turn here. VBS puts one into a certain mindset: you may be an explorer or a teacher … or BOTH! We all learn and grow together.

            This week, the children learned about our God as our caretaker, the source of our daily bread. Who is God … to you?

            There is drawing paper and baggies with crayons in the pews. I would like you to take a piece of paper and a package of crayons and create an “image” of who God is to you. It does not have to be perfect. It does not have to be a masterpiece. It just needs to reflect who God is to you.

            Of course, you may have several depending upon the day, or the time. But, in this moment … who is God … to you?

[Give congregation five minutes to create.]

[Invite congregation to stand, or hold up their creations, for others to see.]

            Now, you may be wondering why we are doing this little exercise. Is it because my vacation begins in about one hour and I am trying to slide out of here with a puff-piece message? Perhaps.

            No. Actually, this is an important exercise for us. Some of us may have a couple of go-to manifestations of God. Depending upon how we were brought up, we may have God the Good Shepherd and God the Loving Spirit. We may have God the Creator and God the King. But God is so much more than three or four manifestations or expressions. When we limit ourselves we also limit God.

            This exercise opens up God to us. It asks us to consider how our images of God may be made manifest in OUR lives.

            How do our images of God – and our resulting images of ourselves – invite us to become the people that God intends us to be? Likewise, how could our images of God or interfere with our becoming the people that God intends?

            How do our images of God draw us into worship? Or, how do our images of God make it difficult or painful to worship?

            How do our images of God help us to greet one another, and treat one another, as the bearers of the image of God?

            How do we pray to the God who is King versus the God who is Shepherd?

            The Bible’s inclusion of a multitude of images for God invites us into discovery. They invite us to discover who God is, and what our relationship with God might be. The images of God open the conversation.

            The words of scripture describe God as Shepherd, True Vine, the Vineyard Keeper. Those were all images that were familiar to the people of the day. They KNEW shepherds and vintners. They may have even BEEN shepherds or vintners. We know that Jesus often used familiar images from their daily lives when he was teaching and preaching.

            What images might we use today? To quote Mister Rogers, “Who are the people in our neighborhood?” Who are the good folk that we meet in our lives? What other images might we consider when we think of expressions or the embodiment of God?

            Are they our friends? Can we possibly contemplate being in a “friendship” with God? Can we possibly consider being that intimate? Friends are the people that we hang out with, go on vacation with, play golf with. Can we imagine golfing with God? Having a drink with God?

            Before you think that I am being irreverent, or possibly even sacrilegious ... our friends are the people that we choose to spend time with. Do we choose to spend that same kind of time with God? Do we invite God to go on vacation with us? Or do we leave God behind knowing that God will be there waiting for us to get home?

            And can we imagine that God would pursue us? Can we imagine that God would want to be friends with us? We know that God is still speaking, and calling, and inviting. We know that God desires that intimate relationship with us. The question for us to consider is are we willing to reciprocate?  

            The objective of this message is not intended to draw an ultimate conclusion or a definitive answer. We are not here to say, “This is our image of God! That is it! No more discussion!” The objective is to open the conversation, begin the exploration. God is everything that we need God to be, in any given moment.

            Can we be everything that God intends us to be? Amen.


Congregational Church