First United Methodist Church

Red Wing, Minnesota

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The Puzzle Pieces and the Picture

Posted by Clay Oglesbee on September 29, 2016 at 5:20 PM

Last Wednesday night, Pastor Pam Armstrong helped the youth of our church to consider how they imagine God.  Is God a huge white-haired and bearded grandfather in the clouds, a jolly  and generous Santa Claus, a wise Morgan Freeman type, a white-vested female rock singer, or a lightning-zapping Wrath up on high?  These and lots of other images are stored up in our minds.  

Personally, I've inerradicably confused God with the severe yet benign, unfinished portrait of George Washington which used to hang in my father's small town newspaper office in Center, Colorado.  

How we imagine God makes a difference in how we approach God with the truth and real needs of our lives, or even whether we come to God for guidance and care at all.  If the God we believe in is not one we can trust to understand or care for us, then we withhold parts of our lives from serious examination and change. We hide from God, as Adam and Eve first did.  One author, Ann Ulanov says, "We keep our pictures of god secret from each other and often even from ourselves.  For what would others think if we talked of God as a stalking an alien, a foreigner whose breath is upon our face...Or like a large lap into which crawl, a breast upon which we lean?  Or a God warrior calling us out to fight?  Or God as Jesus sitting in the back pew of your church?"  When we conceptualize God too concretely or too  narrowly, we run into spiritual issues.  

The point of Pastor Pam's teaching was to show the youth that everyone sees and imagines some part of God's identity, but no one has the whole picture. Each of us has a puzzle piece, and only when we sort out the pieces and place them together can we get from the confusing mix of puzzle pieces to a (more) complete picture.  The incarnation of God in Jesus is a partial check on many of our most distorted images, for in him we see God, humanly expressed and embodied, "full fo grace and truth" (John 1:14)--God with us.  --Pastor Clay

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