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Theology For Aliens:
God Made Us
February 27, 1994

GENESIS 1:26-31; 2:4-8

A rabbi once remarked to a minister, "It's tough to be a Jew here. We are forever telling our children, `That's fine for everyone else, but it's not fine for you. You are special. You are different. You are a Jew. You have a different story. A different set of values.'" In order to preserve their identity, and gain a sense of confidence, direction, and integrity as a Jew, Judaism has developed strong family units, an extensive educational system known as Hebrew schools, and distinctive liturgies and celebrations.

My plea this morning, and through the sermon series this Lent and Easter, is that we Christians also recognize we are aliens on this planet, and begin telling our children, telling our youth, and telling ourselves, the words of the rabbi, "Such behavior may be fine for everyone else, but it's not fine for you. You are special. You are different. You are a Christian. You have a different story, a different set of values."

For too long we have yielded, surrendered, to the world's values and beliefs. The church has too often become a microcosm of middle class America giving a nod to God. Some may feel this identification with the world was appropriate two or three generations ago, but it is not working today. There is just too much going on out there to which Christians must say, "NO!" The current issue of Christian Century magazine includes an article, Raising Children in a Pagan Culture.

In the last analysis, we are aliens in this world. The church is a colony. In order to survive, we need--and our children and grandchildren need--a clearer understanding, a clearer theology of what we believe and value. Yes, we live in the world and we participate as citizens of the United States, the state of California, and Merced County. We go to the public schools, we enjoy concerts and art exhibits, we take dance lessons and go to movies, we root for the Bears, Blue Devils, 49ers and the A's!! Yes, we live in this world and we participate, but we Christians need to know what is right and what is wrong. We need to know how to choose between what is good and what is bad. We need to know to what we can say "yes" and to what we must say "no." We need to know what can remain the same, and what needs changing. It's not a question of how similar we are to the world, but how different we are. It's not a question of how we fit in, but how we don't belong.

One of my heroines is C. W. Roddy of East Palo Alto. She grew weary of drug dealers, and began organizing her neighborhood. They shot at her house several times, wounding her once. But, she continued her brave stand. She sees herself as a Christian alien. She puts her faith into action. She knows what she believes. She knows what is right and what is wrong, and she has courage. She was quoted in the newspaper as not being afraid to die. She said, "When God says it's your time, that's it!" That's it, indeed. When you're not afraid to die, then you are truly free to live. You are free to serve God, free to live as Christ calls you and the Holy Spirit powers you. You are free because no one and no thing can intimidate you when you're not afraid to die. A must-see movie is Schindler's List. Oskar Schindler manipulated the Nazi system, risked his life, and saved the lives of 1,100 Jews.

I'm calling this series of sermons, THEOLOGY FOR ALIENS, beliefs of the Christian colony, beliefs that help you understand who and what you are. This morning in particular, let us consider God. What is the nature of God and what is the work of God? First, what is the nature of God? Who is God? The answer begins with what God is not. God is not a man. God is not an old man in the sky who coincidentally looks like Santa Claus. God is not the man upstairs, nor is God a woman. God is neither male nor female, but because we are human beings we use human language when we speak of God. We can do little else, because we are limited by our language.

Some of the language we have used about God has been detrimental and not helpful. We are beginning to use less masculine language in reference to God, knowing that God is not a he with masculine tendencies. Did you ever take those horrid tests in school that supposedly told you how masculine or how feminine you were? If you liked football, cars and construction work, you were masculine. If you liked music, art, and poetry, you were feminine! Can you imagine the harm done to a young man to be told he is feminine? We have tried to do the same with God, and have done considerable harm using words and concepts that suggest God is masculine--macho, tough, harsh, unapproachable, judgmental, rather than caring, warm, and compassionate.

The Bible likens God to a father, as in the Prodigal Son story, but the Bible also likens God to a mother. Isaiah 66:12, You will be like a child that is nursed by its mother, carried in her arms, and treated with love. I will comfort you in Jerusalem, as a mother comforts her child. God is like a mother, as well as a father. God is both, neither masculine nor feminine. God is not male or female. In fact, God is not a person. To go even further, God is not a being at all. God is not a heavenly being, in some form none of us could describe. Nor is God a principle, an abstract principle or a theory.

Therefore, if God is not a man, a person, a being, or a principle, what is God? What is God's nature? I believe God is power, force, dynamic energy. Jesus said, God is spirit. God is spirit whom we know in three ways as the Trinity. We are Trinitarian Christians. We sang in the hymn, God in three persons, blessed Trinity. This belief is very important, for this belief distinguishes us from other religions. A more accurate word than person is role. We know God in three roles. Each of us is known in different ways. Right now, you know me as preacher. Some of you know me as pastor. Three sons know me as father, and one person here this morning knows me as husband. I am known differently, yet I am still one person. We know God in three ways as the Trinity. We know God as the creator through nature. We know God through Jesus who was God in the flesh. We know God as the Holy Spirit who is with us now and who powers us in special ways.

Furthermore, some of us have the kind of minds that find it difficult to visualize spirit or energy, especially when we pray. Rather than visualizing an old man who looks like Santa Claus, we Christians visualize Jesus. We believe Jesus is the best picture God ever took. None of us knows what Jesus looked like, but we at least know he was a human being and a Middle Eastern Jew. So, I doubt Jesus had blond hair and blue eyes like some artists portray. Based on your picture of Jesus as you read about him in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you can visualize God, because God is revealed to us human beings within our limitations in the person of the human Jesus.

Because of the experience of the biblical Hebrews who later were known as Israelites, and because of the person, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we believe the chief characteristic, the dominant quality, of God is love. The most profound concept we believe about God is that God is love. Whatever God does, it is done in love for the benefit of, for the sake of, for the improvement, for the salvation of creation. Therefore, to summarize, God is spirit, power, energy known to us in three ways as the Trinity, whose chief characteristic is love.

Now, what does God do? What is God's work? God creates, saves and judges. This morning, we look at God's creating. God creates. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and God is still creating, still fashioning, all there is. The process by which God creates is not important to our faith. The two creation stories in Genesis were not intended to describe the process by which God creates. In fact, if you are looking in the Bible for a process by which God creates, the two Genesis stories are incompatible. The myths do not tell us how God created. The purpose of the stories is to proclaim who is doing the creating. The second story in Genesis which includes Adam and Eve also tells us what went wrong with the creation. There are those today who are intent on making a science out of Genesis, called "Creationism". As far as I am concerned, I believe that the God of Jesus created and is creating. Let the scientists tell us how. The current theory is Evolution, and I see no conflict with our faith.

How exciting to live in a time when our knowledge of the vastness and majesty of God's creation is expanding. One of the most spectacular examples of God's creation is you! God made you. God did not choose to make someone else when God made you. Your life has infinite value and worth because God made you. When you feel discouraged, when you feel disillusioned, when you doubt what you are good for or what you are here on this earth for, when you feel unworthy, when you feel you have no talents or gifts, when you feel ugly, when you are sure that others are more beautiful or more handsome than you or smarter than you, when you feel like junk, then remember, and say to yourself over and over, "God made me." God made me. God made me. God made me.

God, the almighty, omnipotent creator of all there is, God who is creative, dynamic energy called Spirit, and known as the Trinity, made us. God made you!

© 1994 Douglas I. Norris