by The Rev. Chuck Currie
There are certain beliefs that shape the core of my understandings about God and the relationship that God and humanity share.
• God is the creator who calls us to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8 NRSV).”
• In the life of Jesus the people of God experienced “what authentic human beings can and should be.” (1)
• Scripture is a “human response to God” (2) that contains the stories of how humanity understood some of our earliest encounters with the divine.
• Encounters with God continue (God is Still Speaking).
• ‘Rigid formulation of doctrine or attachment to creeds or structures” (3) limits us as we attempt to discern God’s will.
God created humanity to be in constant relationship with God. That relationship includes responsibilities (mission) on the part of humanity. We are given “dominion” over earthy creation (Gen 1:26) and dominion requires that we be responsible stewards. God hears our suffering (Ex 2:24) and seeks to “deliver us” (Ex 3:8) in times of trouble. Deliverance is done in relationship with the appointment of guides and prophets who seek throughout history to remind humanity of our responsibilities to God. Sin is when we intentionally move away from God and ignore our responsibilities. Sins can be committed by both individuals and by institutions (kingdoms, nations, churches, corporations). God offers humanity continued grace throughout history as we continue to turn away from the mission set out for us. When we sin God seems anxious to give guidance that brings us back into right relationship with God.
Jesus was born the son of God (Luke 1:26) and during a public ministry he taught the Word of God (Matthew 5). The Word of God has always been a message of liberation for the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40) and a threat to those who stand in radical opposition to these teachings. Jesus was killed by the Romans for preaching a message that threatened their understanding of power. Jesus’ followers experienced the risen Christ after his crucifixion (John 20:29). The resurrected Jesus is still experienced today in our worship. Jesus was the human incarnation of God. No human authority can kill the essence of God.
The Holy Spirit is that part of God that called the church into being on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11). It is what “guides and brings about the creative and redemptive work of God in the world.” (4) We often have trouble with this aspect of God because it is difficult to conceptualize God as something other than a “father figure” or as God incarnate in Jesus. Using human imagery we can understand the Holy Spirit as “God’s own breath.” (5) When we absorb that breath we are nourished by the spirit of God and reminded of our calling.
My denomination, the United Church of Christ, celebrates two sacraments: baptism and communion. Baptism can fairly be administered to infants or adults but in my estimation it is best done when an individual commitment to live faithfully as a disciple can be made. Communion is a reminder of the living Christ and of the sacrifice made for us by God. Jesus preached a message of radical inclusion. The communion table is symbolic of that inclusion and no one who professes Christ should be denied a seat at that table. All are welcome. “No matter where we are on life’s journey, notwithstanding race, gender, sexual orientation, class or creed, we all belong to God and to one worldwide community of faith.” (6)
Scripture is the most important source of revelation for me of God’s word. The simple fact that we still appeal to it has meaning to me in that the words contained in the Bible have spoken to generations across great distances of time and culture and still had profound meaning. How could I alone dismiss an encounter so profound? But John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, took into account Scripture, tradition, reason and experience when trying to discern God’s will. Wesley’s model is one that is faithful and still relevant in this time. Scripture alone can not determine our relationship with God. Our encounters will God are continuing.
Understanding that, can we ever declare that one understanding of God is superior to another? Shirley C. Guthrie writes that, “In the Reformed tradition, confessions have a temporary, provisional, relative authority (and are therefore subject to revision and correction) because all confessions are the work of limited, fallible, sinful human beings.” (7) We write within our own context and time and there is simply no way to say more than these understandings of God are true for the moment and hopefully successive generations of humanity will continue to experience God and discern those understandings in new ways that deepen our relationship with God.
In a short statement like this plenty is left out. People writing into this blog are always asking, however, what it is that I believe. Here are a few of the answers.
 Stephen Patterson, The God of Jesus (Harrisburg: Trinity International Press, 1998) p. 53.
 Marcus Borg, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time (San Francisco: HaperSanFrancisco, 2001), p. 21.
 United Church of Christ, “What we believe”, available from;http://www.stillspeaking.com/about/beliefs.htm; Internet; accessed December 2004.
 Barbara brown Taylor, Home By Another Way (Cambridge: Cowley Publications, 1999), p. 143.
 UCC, “What we believe”, http://www.stillspeaking.com/about/beliefs.htm.
 Shirley C Guthrie, Always Being Reformed (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), p. 22.