Between Heaven and Earth

The Goodness of God

We’ve been talking about knowing God, about being known by God, and the various ways by which we may come to know God. We’ve been looking at technology and artificial intelligence as one of those ways. 

We’re told that we can know God through his voice. John 10 mentions the shepherd’s ability to recognize each sheep individually and the sheep’s ability to recognize the shepherd’s voice, and it appears that the voice is audible:  

   Your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:21)

We’re also told that we can know God by his plan for us, in what I think is one of the great promises of the Scriptures: 

   For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  (Jeremiah 29:11) 

And we apparently can know God through his goodness, which is what I want to talk about today: The goodness of God, and how we know God through goodness. 

   Taste and see that the Lord is good;… (Psalm 34:8) 

So as well as voices to hear and pathways to see, we have goodness to taste. Is knowing God through goodness primarily a sensory experience or primarily a spiritual experience? What do our senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch have to do with knowing God?

It is interesting that sight and hearing are senses that can be realized from quite a long distance. Smell is realized at a much shorter distance, touch even shorter, and taste is the most intimate sense—you actually have to engulf something, put it inside you, in order to experience it. 

Scripture has many references that suggest they have a significant role to play, besides Psalm 34 just quoted: 

   So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)  

   “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the human heart,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9) 

  Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
For I am God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:22) 

   Incline your ear and come to Me.
Listen, that you may live.… (Isaiah 55:3) 

    “May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is sweeter than wine.

 Your oils have a pleasing fragrance,
Your name is like purified oil;
Therefore the young women love you. (Solomon 1:2-3)

In the above, we see the senses of taste and smell. In the following, we see a cacophony of senses:

    All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh, aloes, and cassia;
From ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You joyful.

 Kings’ daughters are among Your noble women;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.

 Listen, daughter, look and incline your ear…. (Psalms 45:8-10) 

There’s great appeal to all the senses in these exhortations to get closer to God. Yet Scripture also tells us that faith is comprised of:

   …the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

and also that: 

   …we walk by faith, not by sight… (2 Corinthians 5:7) 

So which is it? Is knowing God in some ways dependent upon the senses or is it not? When we were studying the Hall of Faith [see the posts for March thru May 2021—ed.] we talked about the distinctly sensory experience of Gideon, which apparently he needed in order to overcome his extreme lack of faith. Even in the presence of an angel, he seemed to require more sensory proofs. Indeed, he demanded not just one but three signs accessible to his senses, in order to put aside his doubts about God’s presence, power, and protection. 

Is knowledge of God primarily a sensory experience or a serious spiritual experience? Or both? 


The concept that God is good spans the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. In Genesis 1 the goodness of God is inherent and manifested over and over in the creative power of God: He created light and saw that it was good, created dry land and saw that it was good, created vegetation and plants and saw that they were good, placed the sun and the moon in their orbits and saw that they were good, and he created great sea monsters and every living creature and the beasts of the earth after their kind, and they were good. To sum it up:

   … God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31) 

As we can see from this passage, God’s creative power is not just good—it is very good. 

The final biblical reference to God’s creative power says: 

   Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among the people, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

   And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give water to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life, without cost.  (Revelation 21:1-6)

So this much is clear: The act of creation, of making something new is central to the goodness of God, as is the act of healing, of renewing, of re-creation, which is at the heart of the ministry of Jesus: 

   You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38) 

Jesus uses the metaphor of fruit to reveal that goodness is also synonymous with truth, and says in the Sermon on the Mount that: 

   … Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. (Matthew 7:16-17)

But the most important parameter of goodness was established when a rich young ruler asked Jesus:

   “Teacher, what good thing shall I do so that I may obtain eternal life?” [Jesus replied:] “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:16-17) 

It’s a tall order for any young man, or any one of us, who is used to wealth and power to give it all up and to keep the commandments as well; but Jesus never compromised on the principle. In the Sermon on the Mount he emphasized that:

   …“For I say to you that unless your righteousness far surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)

He was alluding to the accepted definition of righteousness as keeping of the law. He gave the principle, the essential meaning, the true definition of the equivalent concepts of goodness, godliness, and righteousness to the rich young ruler: Give up all worldly things and follow Jesus. Keeping to the letter of the law may or may not be a necessary condition of righteousness, but certainly it is not sufficient on its own. 

This may be a revealed truth about the goodness of God. It reinforces the necessity for mystery itself, as distinct from laws and commandments. In a long series of illustrations, in Matthew chapter five as part of this, again, the Sermon on the Mount Jesus contrasted law keeping with goodness. For example, He said:

   “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be answerable to the court.’But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be answerable to the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be answerable to the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.’” (Matthew 5:21-22)

He made similar statements about adultery, the making of vows,, and the retribution of justice. In the Old Testament, he sought to replace the prevalent views of his time with distinctly and diametrically opposed concepts such as loving one’s enemy and turning the other cheek, rather than demanding an eye for an eye; and in case all wasn’t clear enough, he nailed it by adding:

   Therefore you shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48) 

In other words, goodness is actually divine. Goodness is God. Yet to people of all faiths, goodness is usually defined in terms of personal piety, of how much one gives in alms, of how much one prays, of how much one attends church, synagogue, mosque, or temple. Jesus said that not only should you not judge the goodness of others on this flimsy basis, but you should not judge yourself on it either. It is the wrong measure. He did not dismiss personal piety entirely, but as a measure of goodness, he clearly relegated it. 

He then goes on to explain this on the basis of three principles, three foundational aspects of religious practice—the giving of alms, praying, and fasting:

   When giving alms, he said, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. To pray, go into the closet. When fasting, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do in order to be noticed. (Paraphrasing Matthew 6:1-8)

Like Isaiah, Jesus placed fasting in a completely different context from that which persists in being commonly supposed, even today, to be the context. Instead of a show of personal privation and its traditional tappings of sackcloth and ashes, one’s focus rather should be on reaching out to those who are oppressed. 

    …Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed
And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?
Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord?

   Is this not the fast that I choose:
To release the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the ropes of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free,
And break every yoke? (Isaiah 58:5-6). 

The definition of goodness that emerges from the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount and from the story of the rich young ruler has more to do, it is clear, with following Jesus by practicing the fruits of the spirit than it does with keeping the law. It has nothing to do with personal piety, with staying within the law. Judgment and goodness are centered upon community, not just the individual; thus, the mystery of goodness, godliness, truth, and righteousness matters far more than conforming to the certainty of the laws and the commandments. 

A good study on the goodness of God is found in Exodus, where we see Moses the law-giver—who was handed the law and the commandments down from God—in discourse with God and wanting to know God better. He could not help asking God to reveal some of his mystery. He asked the question that we all want to ask: “If I have found favor in your sight, please let me know your ways so that I may know you.” 

God did not deny Moses’ request directly. Instead, he said he would make his ways available to Moses by accompanying him. Moses then asked the favor that we all want to ask of God: “Make me and my family, make me and my kind, your favorites. If your presence does not go with us, do not lead us out of Egypt, for how then can it be known that I have found favor in your sight? Is it not by your going with us that I and your people may be distinguished from all other people on the face of the earth?” 

Then Moses asked another common request of small-minded Man: “Show me,” he said, “how powerful you are. I pray you share with me your glory.” God replied: “I myself will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you and I will be gracious unto whom I will be gracious and I will show compassion on whom I will show compassion. But,” he said, “You cannot see my face, for no man can see me and live.” Then the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me, you shall stand there on the rock. And it will come about when my glorious passing by that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take my hand away, and you shall see my back. But my face shall not be seen.” (Partly paraphrased from Exodus 33:13-23) 

There are many interesting things in this discourse, starting with the anthropomorphism of a God with hands, a face, and a backside. There’s the metaphor of being cradled in the hands of God for protection. Most interesting of all is that God allowed Moses to see his goodness, because Jesus revealed that what we can know about God—the mystery that can be revealed—comes from knowing and seeing goodness.

Wherever there is tragedy and disaster, there are often people who will put their lives in danger to help strangers. Is this a revelation of goodness? Is this a revelation of God? Can you really represent the hands and the heart of God with your goodness? Are acts of love and compassion for one another the only way that most people ever get to see God? It does seem that although God sometimes intervenes in the world in a direct and supernatural way, his primary way of operating—his modus operandi—is to operate and to reveal himself through us. It seems that to see the goodness of God, God would like us to just look in the mirror. 

A young man, Jay Withey, got stuck in his truck on the eve of Christmas Eve in the “bomb cyclone”—the deadly snowstorm—that rocked Buffalo, NY. Withey allowed other stranded motorists—strangers—to sleep in his warm truck with him before he went out in the morning to find shelter in any of the nearby homes. 

He later recounted: ”I walked to the houses to see if I could find shelter—any house that had a light on. I had $500 that I was offering to sleep on their floor. It’s the only time in my life I actually thought I was going to die.” 

When his truck ran out of fuel on Saturday morning, he knew that he and the others would freeze to death. “Off to the left,” he said, “I could see there was a school about 600 or 700 feet away from us. I knew the power would be on and there would be heat in there and I was guaranteeing that there would be food in there.” 

Withey stopped along the way to the school to collect others stranded in cars, including seven senior citizens, before breaking a window to get into the Pine Hill Primary Center. The group set up shelter in the cafeteria and ate only what was necessary from the cafeteria’s larder. They moved out late on Christmas Day, but not before Jay cleared the way for the cars of the individuals who spent the night with him. 

Prior to leaving he also fixed the broken window at the school with cardboard and duct tape and apologized for breaking in. He left a note: 

“To whomever it may concern. I’m terribly sorry about breaking the school window and for breaking into the kitchen. I had to do it to save everyone and give them shelter and food and a bathroom. Merry Christmas. Jay.” 

The local police found the letter when they responded to the break in later in the week. They asked for help in finding “Jay,” assuring that he would not face any charges. They did find him, and thanked him. 

Is this goodness? Is this God? Is God to be found in breaking and entering and stealing food? Is the goodness of God a sensory experience or is it a primarily personal and spiritual experience? How do we know God through goodness? Jay apparently was just trying to survive. Can God take credit for Jay? Does Jay go to church? Does Jay take communion? Does Jay pray? Does Jay pay tithes? Has Jay been baptized? 

What is goodness? And how can we use goodness to know God? How are we to know God through goodness? And what are we to know about God through goodness? 

David: This has been a beautiful summation of almost everything I believe, and it is based in Scripture—for the most part, on what Jesus taught. It shows that goodness is all around and that we can see it, and know it when we see it. But religion plays no part in it. There was no mention of religion in the story of Jay Withey.

Don: That’s why I asked if he was baptized, if he paid tithe, whether he went to church, or whether he prayed. There is no record or mention of any of that. He was breaking and entering and stealing food.

David: We ought to reconsider the function of religion. I believe that religion does have a function—and a good function—but it is not to determine what is good and what is bad. 

Donald: It’s interesting to think more directly about the relationship between goodness and religion and the symbols of being religious. I think we’ve all felt, or have heard others say they’ve felt, that their prayers don’t go any higher than the ceiling. So there must be something that we want to feel besides having the prayer answered. We want God to respond to our prayers. 

If we’re safe, protected, and comfortable in our lives then I suppose those are indications of God’s being good to us. I realize that there’s a continuum between scarcity and abundance. Those things can be too abundant, or too scarce. The expectations of a homeless person versus those of a person in a safe, comfortable, warm, and well-nourished environment might be quite different. 

But knowing someone who doesn’t speak back is a tough one, it seems to me. I guess the way God speaks back is through these kinds of sensual things—warmth vs. cold, hunger vs. satiety, etc. But if someone doesn’t feel goodness, or doesn’t feel that they’re safe or protected, is God absent from them? I don’t know.

David: The anthropomorphization of God is the problem, because it leads to the assumption and even the expectation that there’s somebody on the other end of the prayer line, so we can expect to hear a response. I don’t think that’s how God corresponds with us at all. If we think of God as pure goodness (and I think we all agreed that “he” is, and as Don asserted in his preamble) then any feeling that we get from the demonstration of an act of goodness—an act of God—is a feeling of God, a feeling of a communication from God. 

I think there is no person at the other end of the line, so there is no cause to expect a voice saying words in English or Indonesian or any other language. Unfortunately religions encourage precisely that expectation. It seems to me that’s a major problem.

Donald: Can someone living in a world of scarcity, though, feel God’s presence? It seems like at a certain point, there is a response, or you would feel empty. Rather than seeing goodness, you would just feel empty.

David: In the parable of the Good Samaritan, neither the Samaritan nor the victim made any appeal to God. The victim was not saying: “Oh, God help me!” At least, we’re not told that he was. And the Samaritan was not asking: “Oh, God, what should I do?” The events on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho transpired without the presence of God in the sense of an anthropomorphic spiritual being. But the event was unquestionably pervaded by the presence of goodness. There is absolutely no doubt about that. Therefore, since goodness is God, God was present. 

Did either of these men feel that presence? In the story, the victim seems to have been too beaten up to feel anything at all. Later on, when he started to recover, he probably started to feel grateful and probably thanked God for the Samaritan, but the anthropomorphic God who subscribes to Miss Manners’ teachings on etiquette and expects a Thank You note was not there.

C-J: The first thing that comes to my mind is Daniel, who led a faith-based lifestyle, but had been subjected to terrible things. But first I wanted to just share a statement with you and go back to the man in Buffalo who did (it seems to me) heroic things and was very clear in his thinking. 

“Within the crucible, the intentional purpose of the Divine is shaped and tempered.” I think what we see in people who know God is not the rituals, or the place, or the people we associate with that identify us as having a spiritual relationship. That is the right of all living things, because we are spirit, having a human experience. I also think that we want the sweet, we want the favor, we want the provisions; but knowing who God is also about growing and becoming, and it is in the crucible that our root goes deep. 

It’s easy to see the blessing but is difficult to deal with the crucible. But my deepest experiences with God or the Divine was when I was in that crucible. This morning, I was sending pictures to Donald about pieces of my life. And as I was going through them, I was remembering that period of time in my life, and I no longer recoil when I realize I’m in the crucible. I look to a God who is teaching me in the crucible, where the opportunity is in the crucible. 

I know what it feels like to be homeless. I know what it feels like to be hungry, not just for a day, not just two days, but many days hungry. I know what it is to be in perpetual threat of life. I know what it’s like to encounter somebody who could take my life and has threatened to do that. So those are crucible moments where you say: “Lord, where are you?” But I have learned never to doubt God’s presence is there and to me, that is something nobody can take from me when he or she says: “Where’s your God now?” 

Oh, you say you you go to church because you get blessed. You say you know God because you have evidence of being blessed. You say that your faith is the right and only faith because you have been blessed and you are blessed. because you perform this list of rules. But the truth is, we are all experiencing the Divine every day, if we are willing to see through that lens, if somebody comes to me and says: “Where’s your God now? Look at you! How can you see yourself as blessed?” 

But when I come out of that place, or when I’m in that place, and somebody says to me: “You are strong,” my strength is not mine. My wisdom is not mine. My faith is not mine. They are gifts. They are provisions, and we have them. They’re different packages. They look differently when we look at people starving in Ethiopia, rapes and atrocities in Afghanistan. War. Or something man creates. Humans do that. Because we are territorial. But God did not do that. 

I say that, because for me, God is the blessing. Knowing that the provision is there. This man didn’t look for what he wanted. He saw God’s opportunity. He saw that school. And he didn’t go in himself. And the people who closed the doors were afraid. They had not grown in God to believe. They didn’t recognize what God was doing in that moment. 

I haven’t opened my door before also. A small runaway boy, seven years old, standing on my porch in his underwear, asked to come in my house. Did I trust that? No. I told him I would come out, because I knew it could be a ploy, with people telling him to tell me that and then entering my home and doing great harm. I went out, talked to that boy, brought a sheet, covered his body, called the police, brought out books and games to play with him while we waited. And he allowed me to pray with him, that boy. 

What a witness of God’s presence! When the police came, two were in training, two were their teachers. What an opportunity! God was in the midst. Did it look like that when that little boy first knocked on my door? Absolutely not. Just going out of my house was also putting me in danger. But I was a runaway, the first time at seven years old. And I took my five year old brother with me. 

God is always in the room. God is always in the midst. The most broken know it in a very different way. The crucible is not a place to be running from. The crucible is the place where you look up and you say: “I am, because you are.”

Donald: David, are you suggesting that it’s because of religion that we see God as someone as opposed to goodness as something

David: Yes I am. But I am not claiming that God is not present. I am only claiming that he is not present in any shape or form that we can readily identify or anthropomorphize. It really doesn’t matter whether we recognize the type of God that religion throws at us. What matters is God’s presence, and I absolutely agree that it’s always there.

Don: But is it possible to conceive of a God without anthropomorphizing? Is God trying to give us a hint —by equating himself with goodness—that we ought to be looking for God in different places? Like the old song “Looking for God in all the wrong places, looking for God in all the wrong faces”? Is it possible that we we have in our mind a construction of God that’s really misleading us in a very fundamental way?

David: I do believe it’s possible.

C-J: I think that’s the narrative that religion gives us but I think the experience is very different. Because religion separates us. We want to believe that as individuals, the one that I get in line with is the best, is more accurate. But I have met some people who struggle with mental illness who are probably among the most spiritual people I’ve ever met. They struggle with coping and the places their brain puts them in. And yet, they are in some ways very spiritual. 

It’s kind of strange when I recognize that when this person is sharing, or an act that I watch them do, they have an extra portion of kindness and humanity. Not the violent ones, but the ones who are schizophrenic, manic depressive, bipolar,… those people seem to have an incredible compassion for others in time and place. They’re the first to offer you half their sandwich or open the door.

Donald: I think we’re all agreeing, actually. I think goodness can be found in many places. And we should not say that it’s over here and not over there. That’s my point. I’ve gone on mission trips and found little orphans and those are some of the finest moments—rich with goodness. But I don’t think we should exclude the idea of walking into a cathedral and feeling, somehow, the music penetrating you. I think that God is very diverse and we need to recognize that and not say “This is but that isn’t.” I get goose bumps. We all do. There’s lots of things that give us goose bumps. There’s something to that. It’s a moment—that’s why you get goose bumps. Maybe that’s very simplistic,

Don: Is that a sensory experience?

Donald: You tell me! 

C-J: I find churches to be very political, but not necessarily the relationship that you’re describing, in why they go there. They go there for something that separates them from all this stuff out here to a place where they’re confined in that space, and the music and the friendships and the narrative restore their souls.

Donald: There’s a song we sing just prior to the service called: “We are standing on holy ground.” We recognize we are separating ourselves for the moment and are asking for a line of communication with God or God’s presence.

Reinhard: Church is very important in our life as believers because the church nurtures its members to minister to each other. My family was not Seventh Day Adventist but I grew up in the church and was very active every week, going to Sunday school and so on.  

The goodness of God is very palpable to Christian believers because they are taught the Word of God. Our human nature makes us weak and oppose God. But deep inside, I believe the Holy Spirit helps us, works with us. We don’t know if Jay Withey is Christian or not, but probably deep inside, we know that in an existential crisis we always cry out to God, and God helps—that’s been my experience. 

Of the five senses, sight and sound are the most important in starting to know God. When I was small, I listened to the Bible and heard believers and preachers, which of course affected my thought processes. But there’s a sixth sense, where God talks to us through our mind. I have experienced a few times a voice telling me to pay attention to this or that. 

For instance, some months ago, when I was reading Genesis 1, I suddenly realized that the very first verse says that: 

   In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

But that “beginning” could have lasted billions of years before the six days of creation described in subsequent verses. The heaven and earth—two entities—constituted the universe. The earth was formless and in darkness, but it existed right from the beginning, not merely 6000 years ago. To me, this revelation was God talking to me through the sixth sense. 

God also talks to us for the goodness of other people. I have met many people all over the world—scientists, doctors, and others—who are atheists but very good people. Does their goodness come from God? I think so. Some people maybe never come in contact with the Bible or know about God, but I think God has some kind of accountability with these people. Even the Bible says that good people, in the end, are received into the Kingdom. That’s God’s judgment. So to me, all goodness derives from God, just as the Bible says. 

Some non-believers seem to live happy and healthy lives, free of pain and trouble, but at the end of their life, at the Judgment, they will lack the hope of the believer, the certainty that being faithful to God releases us from worrying about whatever happens.

Donald: Our classmate Jay has mentioned a number of times that he’s “comfortable in the skin of Adventism.” But he doesn’t say that’s the only skin you can wear. To me, that’s important, because I do think that religion wants Man to conform with Man’s idea of what conformity means. To say that the only way to get to God is to look like me—put a suit on, put a tie on, get to church on time, pay your tithes, and go through the whole process—is really putting God in a tight box, it seems to me. 

So I think we just have to be generous, because our experiences are so different. Probably most of us here except for Connie have somewhat followed the same pathway, so it’s good to have her here. She reminds us that there’s not just one way of seeing things, as does David. This works for me, but it doesn’t work for everybody.

David: I think the beauty of this class is that it teaches all of us to look at the things that the Bible says in fresh ways, in different lights, and it’s beneficial to do that. I am all over the concept of goodness and Jesus’ most fundamental plea to “Love your neighbors and love God”—and that’s it, that’s enough. Jesus said so, quite plainly. So why not live by that? There can be nothing wrong with that.

And don’t judge. How can anyone even think of judging? Look at all these Bible stories—look at the Good Samaritan: How many interpretations can you make of it? Jesus is plainly and simply pointing out what’s good, but not what’s bad. He doesn’t say whether the Samaritan just happened to have plenty of time on his hands and wasn’t in a hurry, or whether one of the rabbis had got news that his son was dying in Jericho and a friend went with him to accompany him, so he was in a desperate hurry. 

When we analyze the stories, it is too easy and tempting to embellish them, and the main embellishment is to turn the goodness presented in the Bible into an anthropomorphic God.

The important thing is what we’re doing in this class: To reconsider these stories, to look for new meaning. We will never arrive at “the” answer but personally I feel a sense of accomplishment, a little tiny step forward, every week after after class.

Don: I don’t know if I can put it together in a way that’s cohesive, but the idea of seeing God as goodness as opposed to seeing God in an anthropomorphic way is a very insightful notion about how we ought to view and know God.

Donald: What about the biblical statement that we have been created in God’s image? I think that’s where it starts.

C-J: Does image mean the images that we see, or is it spirit? I mean, does God have a face? Is the tree not also part of God? Is not the bird in flight? My concern is when we get off track and it becomes bitterness and hate because bad things have happened, because it’s interpreted through this dimension—“the volcano is God’s wrath, or wars, or plagues,” etc. I think that it is God’s goodness when he personally touches and restores our soul, that experience of the church, the renewal of the Samaritan, as God loves me just as much as the Jew. It might take a while for it to get here, because God is doing other things, and each of those people, every single player in that casting, was an experience, personally and in this group. Everybody was experiencing the same thing, but maybe with a different lens, and their come away was going to be something else. 

I cannot believe that the Holy Spirit did not speak to that priest: “I know you’re on your way to your son. But I put this man right here in front of you. You know, this is an opportunity, you could have made a different choice.” I choose to believe that that priest later regretted it. Maybe he prayed: “Lord, bring the right person who has the time to be the provision for this Samaritan.” We don’t know. But I believe God is always in the midst. Nobody in this collective here whatever date they are here, or their absence, God is in the midst. God is speaking to each of us—revealing, showing, using each of us as a tool, an instrument in his hand—not as a gender but as the narrative because I’m limited by the language. 

God is spirit. God is everywhere. God is perpetual.

Donald: The amazing thing about the experience of Jay in Buffalo is that he could have run off to the school by himself and left everybody else in the car. But he stopped along the way.

Don: He picked up 24 people.

Donald: And then smashed the window, apparently, but then put cardboard in the window. That seems to be where the goose bump happens.

C-J: God in the midst! God was using him as an instrument. “Go left, go right. Do it now. Do it this way.” I’ll bet he had military or EMT first responder experience, because he knew how to get them there. He was a natural leader. He was having foresight. He had a plan. But doesn’t God always bring us the people we need? I believe that God will always make provision. This is the goodness, if we’re paying attention—whether we’re listening to the organ or whether we’re in a snowstorm. 

Don: If you if you want a humorous look at anthropomorphism, go to the blog and read Michael’s picture of the story of God showing Moses his backside, which he claims is God mooning Moses. It’s a take off on the subject of anthropomorphism. 

We will pick it up next week. 

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