Most of the really tough questions I am asked start with some form of “If God exists…?” The question might come after you are affected by some bad choice, maybe your own or someone else’s. A well-meaning person may share that they believe your bad situation happened for a reason and you wonder, “If God exists, can God really relate?” Someone may use their faith to justify being cruel to you or another person and you wonder, “If God exists, why is there suffering?” This question is most often asked after a child or loved one has died or become seriously ill. The third question I would like to discuss in this sermon series is, “If God exists, why limit this knowledge?” You may have found out someone you think very highly of and love very much has been ostracized and hurt by a community that professes love and forgiveness.
August 27th I want to begin wrestling with these questions by looking at “If God exists, can God relate?” In Matthew 16 Jesus asks his friends, “Who do people think I am?” As a Christian, I use the teachings of Jesus as a starting point for most questions. You may use some other starting point: another faith, science, nature, politics, business or humanity in general. I want to be careful not to use circular logic such as I believe this because the Bible tells me so and I believe the Bible because it is the truth of God. I know it to be the truth of God because I read it in the Bible. If you see me doing this, call me out. John Wesley, a Christian, founded The United Methodist Church. He taught that we are all created wondering if there is something bigger than what we can see and touch, something bigger than our self and our ability to know and understand. He believed God put that curiosity there as a gift. Being uneasy or curious about something is a strange gift but it helps me believe in the existence of God. I have experienced this curiosity and the desire to learn about that which is bigger than myself.
I can speak from my personal experience about times when I felt confident that what I knew and understood about a given issue was very limited and I wanted to know more. I believe even the most knowledgeable person feels that same sense of wonder at times and has a burning desire to discover more. All this, and many other experiences, help me to start from the basic assumption that there is a God. Can I relate to this God and can this God relate to me? I believe so. Now, I must come back to Jesus. I think one of the benefits in studying the life and teachings of Jesus is gaining a broader understanding of the nature of God and how we relate to God and how God relates to us.
Jesus was biologically human. He had human tendencies, desires and limitations. I assume these are very similar to the traits you and I share as humans. In reading the stories of Jesus I find that he had doubts, made mistakes in judgment, became tired and irritable as well as experienced joy and celebrated with friends. He knew love and grief. These are all things I experience. I read about Jesus and other people who had similar relationships with God and recall moments in my life when I had experiences much like those. Certainly not to the same extent, but enough to think that God can indeed relate to what I am experiencing and in a small way, I can relate to God.
I don’t believe there is a purpose for everything that happens but I do find comfort in believing that there is no experience, good or bad, that I can’t share. Sometimes I may not feel like or be ready to share but the option is always there. There are times I may be less aware of my option but the option is there. Has God experienced exactly what I experience? Probably not. Can God relate? I think so.
See you Sunday,