[Sermon preached at Harrisonburg Unitarian Universalist Fellowship—December 1, 2019]
You would think that given how important God is to so many people, that we’d find it easier to talk about God. But it seems that even though people act as though, of course, God is real and we all know what we mean by God, very few people are all that articulate when they actually try to talk about God. It’s even difficult to find good jokes about God—when I searched the internet, this is the best I could do: God was talking to an angel and said, “I just figured out how to rotate the Earth so it creates this really incredible 24-hour period of alternating light and darkness.” The angel said, “That’s great. So, what are you going to do next?” God says, “Well, I think I’ll call it a day.”
I suppose for many of us, our understanding of God has evolved quite a bit as we have gone through life; mine has. One of the things I now believe is that we too easily forget that our language about God is always metaphorical. All that humans can say is what we think God is like, not what God for a fact is. It is our concept of God that we talk about. But we have the habit of saying simply, “God is this or God is that.” I will share today about the evolution of my thinking about God—and it seems more authentic to use the kind of language about God that I have used in the past. But I recognize that all I say here is metaphorical, even if I don’t use qualifiers such as “God is like…”.
I was stimulated to reflect on how my thinking about God has changed when I heard the sermon here on God by Paul Britner in October. Paul made me ask, What do I think about God? As a starting point, I think most people actually agree that God does not usually directly intervene in the affairs of human beings. Even most pious Christians have experienced enough tragedy to know that God simply does not step in and stop bad things from happening. My buddy Rod getting killed in a car wreck at age 17. My dad dying suddenly of a brain aneurism at age 67. My mom’s sister having a fatal appendicitis attack when she was four. Not to mention wars, famines, pestilences. So, the question, then, is: Why? Why does God allow so much terrible stuff to happen?
Let me summarize one common notion: the idea is that God has a plan for the world and its inhabitants. But God keeps God’s own counsel. We can’t know what this plan is since God’s ways are not our ways. God does intervene when it suits God’s purposes and our job is to trust God and rest in the confidence that God works all things together for good—even when in the moment we can’t see how. So, God doesn’t intervene because God chooses not to, for God’s own unknowable purposes. Continue reading