Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
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 …
of the “images” of God are descriptive attributes of God: Good, Living, Active,
Giving, Forgiving, Refuge, Strength, the True God.
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
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.
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.
we extrapolate that to the N-th degree when it comes to trying to capture God
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
we need a warrior … and other times we need a mother hen.
we need a rock … and other times we need a Spirit.
we need a teacher … and other times we need a friend.
we need a shepherd … and other times we need a beacon.
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.
week, the children learned about our God as our caretaker, the source of our
daily bread. Who is God … to you?
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.
course, you may have several depending upon the day, or the time. But, in this
moment … who is God … to you?
congregation five minutes to create.]
congregation to stand, or hold up their creations, for others to see.]
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.
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.
exercise opens up God to us. It asks us to consider how our images of God may
be made manifest in OUR lives.
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?
do our images of God draw us into worship? Or, how do our images of God make it
difficult or painful to worship?
do our images of God help us to greet one another, and treat one another, as
the bearers of the image of God?
do we pray to the God who is King versus the God who is Shepherd?
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.
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
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
we be everything that God intends us to be? Amen.
Congregational ChurchUCC, SACO MAINE12 BEACH STREET | SACO, ME 04072207-283-3771