Seven Essential Questions: Who is God?

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, good-bye. Put things in order, respond to my encouragement, be in harmony with each other, and live in peace—and the God of love and peace will be with you.

12 Say hello to each other with a holy kiss.[a] All of God’s people say hello to you.

13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

I apologize if you liked the 2006 movie, Talladega Nights. It may be the dumbest movie I’ve ever seen, could be the stupidest movie in history.

          My opinion of the movie is low. It is higher than Cindy’s. I think it has a redeeming scene in it. The reason this scene is redeeming is, it makes a good sermon illustration. If you decide, to go and stream it on Netflix or something, don’t blame me when you spend two hours you’ll never get back. As for that one redeeming scene, I’ll tell you so you have no reason to watch except to lose brain cells. If you are like Cindy and me and you already invested time, I’m really, really, sorry.

          Martin Thielen, in his book, What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian: A Guide to What Matters Most” says it’s the funniest scene of the movie. Maybe. I didn’t say funny. I said redeeming.

NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby, played by Will Ferrell, his family and best friend Cal, are at dinner in a combo Domino’s, KFC, and Taco Bell. Ricky offers grace.

          He begins his prayer, “Dear Lord Baby Jesus.” He then thanks Baby Jesus for the various blessings, including his wife, Carley. As he prays, he keeps repeating the phrase, “Dear Lord, Baby Jesus.”

          Carley interrupts him and says, “You know, Sweetie, Jesus did grow up. You don’t always have to call him baby.”

          Ricky replies, “I like the Christmas Jesus best, and I’m saying grace. Whey you say grace, you can say it to grown-up Jesus or teenage Jesus, or bearded Jesus, or whoever you want.”

          Ricky continues his prayer, “Dear tiny Jesus…” The scene goes on in an irreverent style that you don’t want me to say. If you want to know, I have the dialogue. He finishes his prayer after several interruptions, thanking baby Jesus for his NASCAR victories and the millions he’s won. He finishes saying, “Thank you for all your power and grace, dear Baby God. Amen.

          Count on Hollywood to raise religious issues in an irreverent way. That scene, irreverent though it may be, raises a serious theological question. “Who is Jesus?” There is a bigger question to ask, “Who is God?”

          Last week I asked you to share with me, what image came to your mind when you closed your eyes and thought of God. What picture comes to your mind? For Ricky Bobby it was the baby Jesus. For his father-in-law, an adult male with a beard. For his friend Cal? Well, we’ll move on.

          What image or picture comes to mind when you think of God? For me, it was my grandmothers. I know without question, both of my grandmothers loved me. I am even more confident, if that is even possible, that God loved me. My grandmothers wouldn’t hesitate to praise me when I was right or did something good. They both loved to tell others about her grandson the preacher. They both loved that I was a preacher, even if I slipped up and went and became a Methodist. Like both of my parents, my grandmothers were lifelong Baptists. I went and broke the mold.

          As for you, the top answer was “creator of everything.” Other answers were, “All things, sun, moon, stars, rain”; “peace, comfort and love” “loving arms, and “my all in all. One of you drew a picture of a shepherd and a lamb. That is a great image of our good shepherd. Thank you for participating.

          The idea for this series came from the Bob Thielen book, Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian. Thielen spends most of this section – talking about Jesus. That’s important, there is no question about it. I think there’s a bigger question, “Who is God.” It’s a bigger question because we, and our almost every Christian denomination are Trinitarian in our understanding of God. This includes Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and the Christian Church to name only a few.

          We believe in one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Mike Warnke, who worked as a Christian comedian said that the Trinity is like a cherry pie. He said a good cherry pie it is runny in the middle. Cutting the pie, you see lines in the crust but if you lift the crust the filling would run together. There are three pieces but deeper, it is all one.

          I’ve served several times on District Committees on Ministry. There are lots of questions asked of candidates for ministry. There are a few asked of EVERY candidate coming before the committee. It is something like this, “You are teaching the confirmation class. Explain the Trinity to your class.” The most common answer is, “water.” Water comes in three forms, ice, water, and steam and yet it is still one thing, H2O.

          Another way to think of the Trinity is God the Father = the Creator God. God the Son = the Redeemer God. God the Holy Spirit = the Sustainer God.

          We think the Trinity is hard. Mike Warnke said, “God didn’t make it that hard. God made it as simple as cherry pie.” While I think the image of cherry pie is interesting, it is also incomplete. Any of our images are incomplete.

          Here is the thing. God is bigger than anything we understand. Warnke also did say, “We couldn’t take God in one bite if we had to.” On that is right.

          The Trinity is a theological idea, not, a Biblical concept. I’ve told you before, the website I use when studying translations and paraphrases is biblegateway.com. I use this site because I can compare several versions side by side and I can cut and paste it into my sermon and not retype.

          Biblegateway.com features 53 versions of the Bible. 50 versions don’t have the word Trinity in them. That left three, and they are three I wouldn’t use. They aren’t bad, just more obscure. They are, The Amplified Bible, The Expanded Bible, and The Voice. Each had a verse from Revelation but none were the same verse. The Expanded Bible had a verse from Isaiah and The Voice one from 1 Corinthians, both talk about an “unholy trinity.” None shared the word in the same verse. All five verses were different. That, and the 50 versions with nothing leads me to discredit all three.

          Our lesson is Paul’s closing words in 2 Corinthians. He speaks of the three persons of the Trinity. We don’t get closer than that. And, whether Trinitarian or not, Christians would agree all three are important.

          Last week I talked about significance and how we, small though we are in comparison the universe, God created it all. God continues to create. We see children coming to life. I love spring. The world seems to come to life.

A couple of weeks ago Cindy made a business trip to Austin. When she came home, she talked about the bluebonnets blooming. God’s creative hand works around us. When I was a student at University of Houston, I took an astronomy class. I learned that the universe continues to expand.

          God the Son is our Redeemer. Without Jesus coming to earth as one of us. He lived the life of a human being. He knew times or triumph and he knew times of pain and disappointment. He died a horrific death at the hands of those he came to save, all so that we who believe would not die at the end of this life but that we would live again. We would live eternally with God.

          God the Holy Spirit is our guide. Thee Spirit leads. That small voice we hear at times, telling you what you should do? Sometimes it’s us trying to justify what we want but there is also a real possibility that God is speaking, giving guidance to you. People sometimes expect to hear God in a booming voice. While God can and does sometimes speak in the booming voice, there is also the very real possibility that God will speak as God did to Elijah. God wasn’t in the earthquake. God wasn’t in the fire. God was in the quiet.

          One God, three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that is our God. All the images we have are OK, but let’s recognize them for what they are, images coming from humans, finite beings, trying to explain an infinite God.

          I’ve done the poll before. I don’t remember all answer. They were like yours. The exception was the first time. The top answer I didn’t see it coming but, I understand. “The Wizard of Oz.” Toward the end, Dorothy and frends make it to the end of the Yellow Brick Road, Oz is a foreboding figure, with a barreling voice, steam coming from his nose, demanding to receive his favor earn it. At best, it’s an Old Testament image, and, it’s lacking.

          The image is bad, yet not the end. When Toto pulls the curtain, the man behind it is compassionate, not demanding but full of grace, bestowing gifts to the group. It’s still lacking. When his balloon leaves Dorothy behind, he can’t navigate the balloon get her and return her to Kansas.

          Oz, like our other images is lacking. He isn’t big enough. Nothing is powerful enough. Nothing is big enough.

St. Anselm’s Ontological Argument says God is bigger than we can imagine. His argument says, if the human mind can conceive all the nature of God, God is no longer infinite because the finite mind understands.

          That is not our God. The God we know is infinite in wisdom, power and love. The God we know is bigger than we can know, understand or fully comprehend. What we need to know is God is still working and at work in the world to create and recreate, to bring forgiveness, grace, and salvation to a fallen creature, and to lead us and guide us, now and forevermore.

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Permission to reuse this post is given for non-commercial purposes

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