Who is God?
I like our Gospel reading this morning because it makes my job easy! Dear Christians: as you have received the love of God in your own baptisms, I want you to get out of your little comfort zones and go tell people who this God you follow actually is so that they too might seek to be baptized. Don’t keep this all to yourself. As we heard in Genesis and in our Psalm, this God of ours created every single thing that exists for one reason – that all things might point to or show, in their own particular way – who God is. Whether creepy and crawly things or mountains, or sunrises, or fish in the sea. All declare the glory of the Lord in their own unique way.
So who is God? Well let me start with God’s own declaration: Go and baptize all people in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. I think most of you in here have heard that God is one being, Christians consider themselves monotheists or believing in one God. But most Christians tend to get a little confused when they then try to figure out how there can be a Father (whom many will call God), and Jesus (whom many call the Son) and a Holy Spirit, and still declare that we worship one God. Now I can give you a really technical definition, but I don’t find this ever really helps people understand, or explain to others, how we can worship one God when we’re constantly talking about three seemingly distinct people, A Father, a Son and a Holy Spirit.
This is what I have found slightly more helpful and thank you to my bible study folks for indulging in this conversation with me Tuesday night. So let’s say you’re sitting around with some Muslim or Jewish friends or colleagues and they say to you, “oh we all worship the same God or we all believe in the same God.” I would say to them, “this is not true.” Why would I say this? It’s not because I’m a jerk. Rather it’s because the God Christians worship and believe in has a particular life and a particular story with people laid out in the Scriptures.
Genesis tells us that God created everything that exists, but that humans are unique in that we are created in God’s image. So humans are supposed to be created images of who God is. This is not how Muslims describe Allah. Our readings for Christmas and then for Easter tell us that the created image of God was only fulfilled when God both came and sent his Son, Jesus, into the world to live out a perfect human life.
God didn’t force people to conform to him by punishment or by killing those who don’t follow, or by taking the world by force (even if some of his followers have done this). He actually took on a nature – human nature – making himself less than God and suffered a human fate, death, not because he’s weak but because we are both weak and impotent to be the perfect images of God that he made us to be. So first this Jesus opened a closed and locked door for us so we can seek and learn to be images of God. And he showed us the way of being those images, which involve following him as we live with others. Not conquering them, not killing, destroying or coercing them; but by speaking the truth with love, compassion, kindness and gentleness, and giving it to God to transform them into his likeness.
Neither Muslims nor Jews would affirm this. Both think of Jesus as being a great teacher and a good role model and a faithful servant of God. But they do not understand Jesus to be God himself. And because of this, they do not see Jesus as having the very being of God, and so the power or capacity to open the door for us to relationship with God our Father. This is a fundamental point of distinction between Christians and other faiths: God came into this world and became one of us so that he might reconcile us to who he made us to be: pointers to him for the sake of those who don’t know him as their creator yet. Finally, we have God the Holy Spirit. Despite what some Christians would like to claim – that now we have the Holy Spirit and this Spirit is doing something new with us – that’s not what the Scriptures tell us at all. The Scriptures, or God’s life with us, tell us that because this Holy Spirit is God and so of one being with God the Father and God the Son, the only thing the Spirit can do by its very nature as God, is to draw people to himself.
Now this could be pretty vague: oh the Spirit is drawing us to God so let’s go do something new and say it’s a God thing. But if the Spirit is drawing us to God, what we’re being drawn into is not vague. It’s very particular. It is the life of Jesus. And what does the life of Jesus reveal to us? The will of God the Father. Again, if you’re talking to Muslims and Jews, or any other religious group, they simply will not affirm that this could be the God they worship. The God they worship certainly does not become human, nor could God suffer a human death, nor does God gather people to himself through granting people a ministry powered by a Holy Spirit.
These claims about who God is – that the God we worship is one being who is constantly and consistently three Persons, Father, Son and Spirit, each Person involved in every single act of God’s that we find through Scripture – are unique to Christians. The thing I find most convincing about this particular God is that in his infinite power to create or eliminate everything that exists, he willingly chooses to love me even though he has perfect knowledge of all the things I do, all the things I hide from others and from myself and all the ways in which I have failed to live a life of loving other people, of loving myself, and of loving God. He hasn’t killed or punished me – as most humans would do if they knew what was inside the deepest crevasses of my being (and all of us have these and are often blind to them) – he actually loved me enough to suffer the consequences of a world that so often hates goodness, so that I could have a foretaste of the goodness for which he made me. This, my friends, is reality worth sharing with others. AMEN.