No Generic “God”
June 09, 2017
By The Rev. Canon Megan Traquair, Canon to the Ordinary
A generic version of allergy medicine might help my sneezing nose and pocket book, but the God who is saving me, and us, is anything but.
In the liturgical life and mind of the Church, we stand right between Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. In the discussions about just how you explain a God who comes to us as Three Persons and yet one God, we easily lose sight of the profound experience of his presence.
There are indeed powers and principalities in our world; only the very naïve believe there is only one kind of spiritual power out there. Read the headlines on your phone or in the newspaper. They tell us otherwise every single day.
Sticking to a generic version of deity, we often land on the image of God who is like an affable and forgetful teacher–they mean well, but forgot they were going help you with your project. With that kind of help, I might as well do it all myself. And how often do we find ourselves doing exactly that?
Compare that to the overwhelming presence of our Living God who is Creator: making a universe whose very rules of physics cause it to hold together. Who brings about molecules with miraculous properties like H2O (water) and has an eye for breathtaking beauty. Just see the glory of the Redwoods, the teaming life of the sea, or a desert sunset.
Or compare a generic deity to power of the Holy Spirit–seen and experienced as fire, from the burning bush to the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit who warms our hearts in the most personal of manners, yet is also the dynamo whose continuous flow of energy empowers service and sacrifice of whole communities in the care of others.
Most particularly, God has definitively revealed himself in his Son Jesus Christ. God has literally pitched his tent among us. From the surprising shock of stubbing that little toe, to the satisfaction of a good meal after a hungry day, to the intimate joys of friendship and family, our Lord knows our daily lives.
One of the best ways to drag the habit of mind from generic deity to the Living, Triune God, is to help with the journey of a new or renewed believer. To see the close action of God in their life and the transforming power of holy, healing love on a barren part of their story is to fall to our knees in gratitude. Our own hearts become tender again.
Several of our churches pursue this kind of mentoring in an intentional manner with the ancient Christian practice of the Catechumenate–the slow formation of an individual into a person with an active, transforming relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our God is hugely efficient. The leaven of just one life turned to Christ can light up a whole congregation.
One of our rectors, Father Ernie Galaz, went to an Introduction to the Catechumenate and came away thinking it was mildly interesting but would never work for his church. Soon he was looking around and began to spot specific persons for whom the process would be perfect. Being a man of faith, he decided to give it a try. The Bible study and conversation and prayers, mostly led by a lay leader, kindled a fresh fire in their midst.
Father Ernie told me that his main job in the Process was to wash the dishes after their meal together! He now reports that they have had a real influx of younger families in their church. I do not know what part the Catechumenal Process played in that happy development, but it was clearly part of how God got their congregation from one state to another.
The Diocese of Arizona is offering an intensive training weekend in August for those who want to explore this ancient practice of faith formation. Send a pair of folks from your congregation. Then see what happens at your church. Our God never fails to show up, and is neither inattentive nor ineffective. God knows where your church is! Go deep and wide, seek the face of our Triune God together, and see what it means to fall into the hands of the Living God.
Get more information and register for the Catechumenal training.