I am prone to the sin of envy.
Probably in many ways, but at least for this morning in two specific circumstances.
I am envious of people like John Lettieri who can sit down at a piano and just play.
I wish I could do the same.
I wish I could allow some of what is deep within me, often that which is beyond words, to find it’s way from heart and head to finger and keys and out into the space around me.
And, I am envious of those of you who can speak another language.
I wish I could, as well.
And, even though I am working on Spanish, I have a LONG way to go.
My fear, and therefore my inability to learn another language, has roots that go back to middle school and high school. That fear followed me through college where a semester of a foreign language was a requirement for graduation. And, it followed me on to seminary where, for those of us who wanted to become a Presbyterian minister, a year of both Biblical Hebrew and Greek was required. I managed to pass both of those classes, but for years following seminary my anxiety dreams were of suddenly finding myself in a Greek class or a Hebrew class and having absolutely NO idea of what the professor was talking about.
While I remember absolutely nothing about the actual Biblical Hebrew or Greek, what I did learn from those classes was how learning another language helps one understand a different culture and context and world view. My take away from a year of Hebrew was that the world view in Hebrew scripture is very different from the world view in Christian scripture. That plays out for me this way. In thinking about and talking about that which we know and name as God, Christian scripture, and particularly Christian theology which then began to interpret the meaning of scripture, was shaped by Greek philosophical thought. As a result, in relationship to the question of God, it sought to answer the question “Who is God?” In the congregation in which I grew up, I learned there was a very specific answer to that question which is found in the Shorter Catechism which, in turn, is based on the Westminster Confession of Faith which was written in 1643. You can find all this in this Presbyterian tome – The Book of Confessions.
Question #4: What is God?
Answer: God is a spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.
Got it. Yes.
Understand it? Not sure.
What I learned while trying to learn Hebrew is that Hebrew scripture, for the most part, does not try to answer the question “Who or what is God?” The question it seeks to answer is “What does God do?” And, maybe because of who I am and how I think, that question resonates with me and is one I can begin to understand.
And, it is the question, I would like us to think about this morning.
So, I am going to ask you. What does God do?
[Ask congregation for their responses and list on paper hung up on the walls of the sanctuary.]
So, where is all this going?
A month ago I had an Ah Hah moment as we began worship.
I had said Good morning to a number of you as you arrived for worship as I often do.
John began the Prelude and I walked to the front of the sanctuary and took my seat and looked again at the bulletin and at my notes for the service to be sure I was ready. At least as ready as I could be or ready as I ever am as we begin worship on a Sunday morning.
And, then the choir sang this Introit.
[Choir sings Introit]
What struck me as I listened to the choir and the Ah Hah moment for me was one word. Magnify. Sitting there on that Sunday morning trying to get ready for what would come next, I forgot all that and scrambled around until I found a pencil so I could write down the word so I wouldn’t forget. How many times in my life had I listened as that word was read or sung, and didn’t hear or understand what was being said?
The definition of magnify is to intensify or exaggerate or to enlarge.
A magnifying glass makes small things larger.
A telescope brings distant things closer.
So, if what the choir sang was correct…
And, if the Bible says is right…
Then, our lives, as People of Faith and our purpose as a community of faith…
Is to magnify God.
You and I are to bring God closer.
You and I are to make God’s presence and promises larger.
You and I are to make more visible those daily moments of grace which brush up against our lives.
At least that is what the Bible claims.
So, back to what we talked about a moment ago.
What is it that we said God does?
If that is truly what God does;
And if we are to magnify God;
Then we are left with both the question and the responsibility of how do we do that?
How do we magnify God by…
In all those places where you live and work each day?