Know What?

Valentine’s Day 2013 at the petition signing party
for the Freedom to Marry campaign

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”

My degree is in Systematic Theology. This is a fancy name for a field of study that asks questions like “who is God,” “what is humanity,” “what is sin”, etc, etc.  It serves me very well in my software support career.  ahem…. However, it will serve me at church during the next six weeks in Lent.  Tomorrow morning I am going to start a 6-week series of Adult Ed classes at my church on the question of “who is God.”

But is that a question we can answer? Psalm 46 tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God!” But who is God?  If we pay attention to some voices in the media, God is angry and judgmental, causing earthquakes and hurricanes because of our wayward behavior. These comments are exactly why this is an important question to discuss. The picture of a God who punishes is not the only understanding of who God is. It is important to discuss, because how we understand God governs our choices in how we treat ourselves and others. Not all Christians believe in a God who may punish you for not being holy.  And not all Christians believe in a God opposed to gay marriage.

This year, for Valentine’s Day, I went to two different events to help kick off the Freedom to Marry campaign for Oregon: Oregon United for Marriage. We signed a petition to get a ballot measure on the 2014 ballot in Oregon to remove the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and allow same-sex couples to marry.  It was a beautiful and exciting day, and long overdue. 
The first event I went to was a gathering of clergy and other faith leaders voicing their support for the measure. Several speakers shared the feeling of wanting to break the myth that people of faith are opposed to gay marriage. The truth is, that many, many people who believe in God also support the freedom of LGBT people to marry.  (My Lutheran bishop was one who signed the petition, and his letter regarding his support is here.)

How can this be?

As a person of faith who has studied scripture and theology (heck, I got a degree in it!), my own conclusion is that God is loving, inclusive, and compassionate. (See my post here about how I believe the bible does not support homophobia or anti-gay behavior).  I see scriptural support for a God who is on the side of the outsider, the orphan, the poor. The Bible is full of stories where God cares for those who have been left out, excluded, judged and condemned.

How I view God impacts how I act towards others. Because God’s loves reaches beyond the boundaries, I want my love to as well.  Because God works for justice and wholeness in society, I want to as well. God calls us to step outside our comfort zone and care for others.

Because I want to work for justice and wholeness in society, I will be working on the Oregon United for Marriage campaign.  My understanding of who God is compels me to work for equal rights and to support loving relationships. What does your understanding of God lead you towards?

“Be still and know that I am God” is a call to pause and reflect on God’s nature.  It is followed up in the new testament with stories such as the one of the man who crossed to the other side of the road to help someone in need. Jesus commanded us to “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37, the story of the Good Samaritan). I will be spending the season of Lent trying to be both in the place of being still to know God and of crossing the road to help those in need. I invite you to join me as I reflect on this.

God of love, Many of us have felt like outsiders, but not all of us are treated equally. Help us to work for justice for all, so that all couples may have the right to marry, all children may have the right to a good education, all people may have a safe place to live, healthy food to eat, and access to health care. Open our eyes to the needs of our neighbors so we may respond with love and compassion. Thank you for loving us with a love that extends beyond our comprehension, and beyond our desire to define and control it.  Thanks, and Amen.

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