Is God mighty or gentle? Nurturing or challenging? In this third installment in the Strength in Faith series, Rev. Lisa Yebuah unpacks our conceptions of the Divine.
This teaching is based on Hebrews 12:18-29:
Hebrews 12:18-29 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. (For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.
When I was a young girl in South Carolina, I grew up in a church community that had these paper church fans that you used to cool yourself down during hot summer months. Most times they have marketing form a local funeral home, MLK Jr.’s profile, OR they’d have this image of a Nordic Jesus with a Dominican blowout with body waves looking out in the distance pondering his future all with a Glamour shots filter on his face. I never resonated with that image of Jesus. Like, can this Jesus keep me safe if something pops off? He looked so docile, almost too docile.
All jokes aside, how we imagine Jesus, or let’s say how we conceptualize God, plays a large role in what we believe of God. I know this is true of how I see others in my life. For example, after the 2016 elections, I found myself having an incredibly difficult time seeing people as gracious or even faithful if they did not hold the same socio-political beliefs that I have. And while I believe that we are to hold each other accountable when that is appropriate, I also know that we can easily dehumanize others when we can’t hold onto an understanding of BOTH/AND.
Let’s get back to the image of God. Here’s what I also believe to be true — it’s hard to have an imagination for God without a BOTH/AND, even if it’s difficult to fathom.
Now there are some things about the character of God that are unchanging: God is good. Hard stop. God is merciful. Hard stop. God is love. Hard stop.
AND God comes with might and also with gentleness. AND God speaks in a whisper and also like with a voice of thunder. AND God is like a mother hen drawing us near and also has the power to make mountains quake.
Faith in God requires making space for God.