Shekinah Glory


I Am Who I Am
August 31, 2008, 7:04 pm
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Church, God, Grace, Inspiration, Religion, Spirituality

Exodus 3:1-15

Has anyone ever watched Sundance channel’s program called Iconoclasts? It is an interesting concept. According to its website the show is “…a series of intimate, unpredictable portraits of creative visionaries whose passion for what they do has transformed our culture. Get an inside look at their lives from fellow creative pioneers and discover how their work has raised the bar on excellence.” One episodes that I viewed had the lead singer of the grunge rock band Pearl Jam Eddie Vedder and the big wave surfer Laird Hamilton together. As they toured around Laird’s multimillion-dollar Maui estate they talked about being radicals in the world of music and sports. Vedder is a member of one of the largest selling rock bands in the history of music and Hamilton is major model, stunt man and actor. These two interesting people were able to have an intelligent conversation with each other. I enjoyed the show, but I cringe every time that I hear the term iconoclast used to describe these popular people.

Iconoclasm is a term that earned its definition through violence and brutal theological argumentation. Iconoclasm is the destruction of a culture’s own religious icons and monuments for the sake of religious purity. In the 7th and 8th century it split the Byzantine church in two. The Iconoclasts tore down the images in churches that depicted God, while the Iconodules maintained that it was not the images that were divine, but that they pointed to the divine beyond them. The Iconoclasts maintained that in their destruction of images they were only taking a literal interpretation of the Ten Commandments and destroying idols.

From some Muslims to early Protestants to the English Puritans to some of our modern fundamentalists there is a long history smashing religious symbols for the purity of the faith. Yet, we have never been able to wipe the spiritual imagination from our collective experience enough to free ourselves from outward representations of the almighty. Nor have we been able to strip away our propensity to turn our most fervent beliefs into idols themselves. As the founder of the Reformation Martin Luther points out when his reforms caused his followers to tear down the statues and religious images in the churches of Wittenberg, Germany it is virtually impossible for him to hear the Biblical texts without conjuring up mental images of the divine and also that we can tear down all the images that we want to of the divine in the church and still let our legalism become a greater idol than any image could ever. As long as we are not worshipping the image, but the one beyond all images we are doing well. Why, because the only attribute of God that we may be able to claim with any sense of certainty is our creator’s ultimate freedom.

This is the freedom that exits an inexhaustible flame. “I am who I am!” the unnamable deity proclaims from a burning bush to the stuttering, murderer and goat farmer named Moses.

Moses fully expects that a visitation and viewing from God meant personal obliteration. Yet, as usual, God is unexpected. God claims to have known Moses’ ancestors, to hear the cries of the suffering people that the divine claims, and to care about their salvation. This is unheard of personal care for created beings in the Near Eastern time, as well as for our impersonal postmodern times. Plus, when Moses asks whom he should say sent him to free the Israelites God proclaims, “I am whoever I want to be!”

What does it matter? So, we free our God from the moorings of tradition, ideology, culture, and nationalism, what does it mean for our relationship with that God?
It means that not only is God free to be found in a burning bush, God is to be found in the blooming sunflowers, the rushing arteries of the human heart, the gently flowing brook and the clear note blown from Miles Davis’ trumpet. God can be found anywhere that God wants to be found! It is in these sometimes minor, sometimes major natural revelations that we are given a peak into revelation. The same freedom that allows God to tear back the mysterious divine workings in the natural world are also working toward our salvation and use in that same creation. God is free to use an unlikely man named Moses to save the chosen people, God is free to use each and everyone of us to change our worlds.

So what is your view of God? Maybe God is the white haired patriarch reaching out his hand to Job in a Robert Blake etching or the divine king of renaissance art or the mother hen that gathers her chicks. These all may be helpful images of God to help us grow closer to the creator, but we must all become iconoclasts when each of these views limits God’s freedom. God is greater than anything that we can imagine which means that grace and love are also infinite possibilities with the divine. Know that every time we put a period on the end of a definition for God it will be erased and we will hear the same voice that Moses heard declaring, “I will be whatever I want to be!”

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3 Comments so far
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Without fail the persistent clang of the tin cup leveled against the immovable rock of God’s truth and His true identity. You can’t snow the snowman.

Comment by David Patton

Or her true identity:-)

Comment by pastorofdisaster

[…] like the muslim when he came later, images profaned. But this changed. Icons became acceptable [1], [2], later used against Christians by […]

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