Entering the Mystery

Life Notes—August 15, 2013 

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?’”  God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”  Exodus 3:13-14a

A friend of mine once gave a sermon with this theme: God is not a question to be answered.  It was a powerful message for me, capturing a fundamental concept of truth:  Try as we might, we will never figure out God.  Let me explain.  Figuring God out is not the purpose of scripture or prayer or church or spiritual growth.  The purpose of spiritual practice is to build a connection with the Divine. The Hebrews of the Old Testament were squeamish about naming God, and for good reason. When we name something we limit its nature.  Naming establishes boundaries for what a thing is and is not.  When we say, “This is a maple tree,” we establish it is not an oak.  It is not a house, a car, or a person.  We name because it is useful to categorize and describe what we encounter.  It is also helpful in sharing our experiences with others. However, God is distinctly different.  God, by nature, cannot be limited by a name.  God is limitless. Further, God’s nature transcends language.  Language is a useful tool for communication; but just because we name something a maple tree does not mean we have captured its essence.  This is especially true with God.  We use the name God, but what that name implies is as varied as those who speak it.  No human name can capture the essence of God.

In Exodus 3:1-15, Moses encounters God as a burning bush that is not consumed by the flames.  God promises to deliver the Israelites from their slavery to the Egyptians.  Moses asks who he should say is the giver of this promise and the reply is, “I am who I am.”  The original word has been interpreted in different ways, all of which are vague and mostly uninformative to our need to define and categorize.  A common application of this name is in what I learned as the Doxology: “As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.”   The Doxology is a translation of the name God gave Moses to share with his people.  Although Moses asked for God’s name, God refused to become a question for us to answer.  Thus, God is not a being to be named.  I am leery of those who act as though they have God figured out. I believe the Bible confirms in numerous ways that God is beyond our ability to fully understand or name.  I think what is helpful, necessary and possible is a relationship.  Even so, we can never get too comfortable in our familiarity with God.  We do best to keep our minds and hearts open to the possibilities, trusting in God’s love for us. It is a love we may not fully understand, but a love that is reliable.

Tom will be preaching downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch is preaching at the west campus where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.  Enter and explore the mystery with us!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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