My Two Cents
March 1, 2019, 12:00 AM

God Words

Some words are unmistakable in their meaning. Baseball, daffodil and lawnmower come to mind, especially during these days of longing for spring.

Other words can mean almost anything. A few weeks ago in worship we talked about the word ‘love’. It’s not only a splendored thing, it has so many meanings. What comes to your mind when you hear the word college? Or restaurant?

A few weeks ago a group of us were introduced to a way of describing the second kind of word- the kind with many meanings. Our leader called them “God Words”.

Those of us who use the word ‘God’ invoke    wildly different and often contradictory images. When a young person (or an older person for that matter) says with great fear and trembling,  “I don’t think I believe in God anymore”, I try to   remember to say something like, “Tell me about the God you don’t believe in. I may not believe that God either.” Sometimes that frees us up to talk about other ways to think of the same word.

A God Word is a word that has so many meanings people who use it are often talking right past each other.

Some examples? A person stands up in a church meeting and says, “We need more diversity” Most likely more needs to be said about what that person means by diversity. Privilege can be a God word. Some people use it suggest being part of the one percent- the elite. Others are talking more generally about the opportunities one group of people has simply by virtue of who they are- not because of what they do. Whenever the word “growth” comes up in a conversation it might be a good idea to ask, “What do you mean when you say growth?”

Hearing the decision made this week by the United Methodist church to retain its current ban on gay clergy and same sex marriage made me think of the God word “church”.

For me this word is golden. It has always communicated two things: the unmerited love I received as a little kid who would often get the giggles in worship and, as a bigger kid, who was absolutely certain I had a better answer than anyone else to solving the world’s problems; AND the unequivocal call to extend love to others- ALL others- by offering    hospitality and working for justice.

This is what church means for me. But I fear that for so many- and now maybe even more- church is another word for describing that place where we get to belong and you don’t. Which means that, for those of us who love the church, our work is cut out for us. Let’s do our best to make church a “God thing” more than a “God word”.

Shalom, Rick