this past sunday, we sang this hymn by new zealander shirley erena murray in church. the hymn begins with the words, "loving spirit, loving spirit, you have chosen me to be," and goes on to describe God as "mother, father, friend, and lover" in its five stanzas. i was struck by the imagery in the hymn and by the fact that the word "god" is not used once in the hymn. i love the lines about God, as a father, hoisting me onto his shoulder so i can see from God's perspective. in so many ways the hymn captures my thoughts about the nature of God as an all-pervasive Spirit that is a part of everything that exists, the very ground of our being, the essence of the universe itself. we are each a "sign" of that Spirit/God, called into being by that which is beyond being.
we create our own gods that are like us, imagining gods that exist separate from us, gods who manipulate history so that a pre-determined outcome comes to pass. we christians often reduce God to a great rule-maker and record-keeper in heaven making marks on a score sheet that will be tallied at the ends of our lives to determine the winners who get into heaven and the losers who do not, or we envision God as the great santa claus who gives us everything we ask for and constantly says to us, who see ourselves as perpetual sinners, "it's ok, i forgive you, i know you can't help yourself because you were born in sin." we reduce God to what we want God to be, a God that we can blame when tragedy strikes--"i don't know why this happened, it must be God's will"--or an "american" God who is on the side of the usa: a white, protestant, heterosexual god for a white, protestant, heterosexual united states.
but God is much more than our narrow image of God. God is the essence of good, the origin of compassion and lovingkindness, the presence that vibrates in each particle of matter, beyond knowing and comprehending, yet a part of each of us. may we not reduce God to what we want God to be. may we not attempt to use the god of our own creation against those with whom we disagree. may we not set boundaries on God by trying to contain God in a "sacred" book. may we worship God by our actions toward ourselves and our fellow creatures, sharing compassion and lovingkindness as the sign of God-in-us. shalom.