Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Faith, Religion and the Church

Last night after a prayer and conversation about God using both male and female pronouns to refer to God with my seven-year-old son he said, “I think God is both a boy and a girl. One side has a pony tail and the other side has a mullet.” I was so proud of my son I shared it on facebook.

Humor added here!
I was then challenged by my cousin to prove my understanding of God with scripture.

Though I am a seminary student, I do not like to engage in Bible verse competitions. Being in the United Church of Christ however, we often find ourselves having to defend our interpretation of scripture. And lucky for me, I didn’t have to come up with a single verse, others did that for me.

I was raised in the church, but I didn’t have much interest in it. My mom had to make me go. However, that did not mean that I didn’t have a relationship with God. We were actually already quite tight when I was a youth. I only recently realized that my understanding of God as a being of light and energy that encompasses both male and female characteristics has been my understanding as a long as I can remember. To me, it was just the way I knew God to be. The only way I can describe the relationship is that I can feel God always walking along side me and if I need clarification I will literally ask.

So when I discerned my call to ministry, I literally asked “what am I supposed to be doing?” I heard God, but I didn’t like the answer. God had sent another human being to say, “I think God is telling me that you have the gift for ministry.” And I responded with becoming a department lead at Kmart. And as I walked that path I could feel the weight of my invisible back pack get heavier. So when I finally allowed myself to not only hear God, but to follow God, another human was sent again to tell me that I am worthy and capable of representing God, and I finally listened. And the backpack was gone.

The truth is I was actually afraid to go to seminary because I was afraid that this relationship I have with God would be disproved when I read scripture. In the past I would read scripture and say, I don’t understand that, I don’t believe that. I would doubt myself as a Christian when I struggled with the words in the Bible. Then I realized that the only thing between me and scripture were the words selected. I know that when I refer to God as he or she, I don’t actually mean either, but I don’t have any other language to describe God.

When I was finally able to listen to God and to trust that I understood what God was calling me to do, I was able to read scripture with a new understanding. See, I was worried that my relationship with God was wrong and that a right way to interpret scripture exists. The reality is there is no person on earth that completely understands God. Our human minds cannot adequately understand nor do we have the words to adequately describe. When it comes to interpreting scripture there is no right or wrong; winner or loser.

Religions and churches can claim they have the only answer because we in American have an obsession with winning. I’m not concerned about being right. I’m concerned with how we act as Christians with other people. When I sit in my church I know that we don’t all agree on theology. What is amazing about being in a church like that is we can mostly agree and sometimes disagree but still love and accept one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

So therefore, I will not dispute over words. If you try to find God merely in scripture without forming a relationship with God, you have religion. Scripture is a tool we have to understand that God exists. What really matters is our faith.  If you truly sit with God and listen to what God puts into your heart, you will understand scripture. When you truly give God your time and attention you will understand your faith. If you then understand God to be a man or if you then understand God is both boy and girl with a pony tail and a mullet, who am I to question you?