Images of God: wrap-up of a refreshing retreat, plus some thoughts on hateful picketers and their own faulty image of God

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Hiking at the north fork of the Nooksack River

EPIC went on retreat October 16-18 to deepen friendships, to enjoy nature, and to work with the theme “Images of God.”

Together we looked at all sorts of proposed images of God and wondered about our own assumptions. Is God best described as a father, a mother, a policeman, a grand old man, a judge, an ideal of absolute perfection, an escape, a strengthener, a therapist, a managing director of the universe? Does God change over time, or would such a thing be beneath the dignity of the divine? Is God to be found in nature, in our conscience, in the Bible, in the goodness of other people? What might be some of the shortcomings of these metaphors? What evidence have we gathered of God in our lives?

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Our Sunday morning altar was decorated with pieces of nature and images of God.

We played with the theme all weekend in various ways. We also simply enjoyed each other’s company and got to know each other better, welcoming new members into our midst in the process. And throughout the weekend we worshiped together using The Book of Common Prayer: Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Compline, and on Sunday morning, Holy Eucharist.

We returned on Sunday morning just as the regular church service at St. Paul’s was ending. When we arrived, picketers were standing outside the church protesting — the same ones you may have seen on campus a couple times this week. Their signs read “Repent Now or Burn!” and “Ask Me Why You Deserve Hell.” We didn’t engage them; we know better. Personally, I wondered a lot about their images of God. They seem to believe that God is in a rage and just can’t wait to punish people with lots and lots of pain. What formed those images in these people’s minds? What abuse have they been subjected to, that they cannot conceive of the idea that God loves everyone?

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EPIC welcomes YOU … yes, YOU! You will be safe with us.

One thing I’ll say for sure: whoever in your life loves you the most, God must love you that much or more. That’s one reason Jesus instructed us to love one another. Without loving relationships with other people, how else could we possibly understand God’s love?

Say a prayer today for those whose heaven is so small that they’d rather chase people out of it than welcome people in. Say a prayer for your enemies, as Jesus instructed us to do. Say a prayer that God’s will be done, that even those who seem not to understand love at all will discover God’s saving love extended to them. Know in your heart that your very existence is evidence of God’s love for you. And know that EPIC welcomes you, too.

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When the picketers were on campus last week, a bunch of us began to write with sidewalk chalk on the ground all around them. This is what one student wrote. YES. “Jesus loves queers,” and all other people who are victimized and subjected to abuse. Jesus stands with you … and EPIC aspires to do so, too.

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