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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Velvet Elvis

Velvet ElvisI picked up a new book yesterday on the recommendation of some coworker friends. It's called Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell and I haven't yet been able to put it down! It's more a commentary on the Christian faith than anything, similar to Donald Miller. Quite fascinating to me, and probably you if you wish to check it out...

I leave you with this excerpt to leave you thinking--
In Moses' day, the way you honored and respected whatever gods you followed was by making carvings or sculptures of them and then bowing down to what you had made. These were gods you could get your mind around. Moses is confronting people with an entirely new concept of what the true God is like. He is claiming that no statue or carving could ever capture this God, because this God has no shape or form.

This was a revolutionary idea in the history of religion.

You are a holding a book in your hands. It has shape and volume and weight and all the stuff that makes it a thing.

It has thingness.

This book has edges and boundaries that define it as a finite thing. It is a book and nothing else.

But the writers of the Bible go to great lengths to describe God as a being with no edges or boundaries or limits. God has no thingness because there's no end to God.

Or as the question goes in the book of Job: "Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?"

It makes sense, then, in a strange sort of way, that when Moses asks God for His name, God replies, "I am."

Doesn't really clear things up, does it?

Moses is looking for a being he can wrap his mind around. Is this the god of water or power or soil or fertility? All the other gods made sense; you could understand them - who they were and what they did and what they stood for. But this God is different. Mysterious. Unfathomable.

"I am."

The name's origins come from the verb to be, so some read it as "I will be who I will be."

Others suggest it should be read like this: "I always have been, I am, and I always will be."

Perhaps this is God's way of saying, "If your goal is to figure me out and totally understand me, it's not going to happen. Even my name is more than you can comprehend."

Later Moses says to God, "Now show me your glory."

Which is our way of saying, "I need more. I need something I can see. Something tangible."

God's response? He tells Moses to go stand on a rock, because He's going to pass by. He explains to Moses that no one can see Him and live, so He'll cover Moses with His hand (God's hand?) as He passes by, and then He says, "I will remove my hand and you will see my back."

The ancient rabbis had all sorts of things to say about this passage, but one of the most fascinating things they picked up on is the part about God's back. They argued that in the original Hebrew language, the word back should be understood as a euphemism for "where I just was."

It is as if God is saying, "The best you're going to do, the most you are capable of, is seeing where I... just... was."

That's the closest you are going to get.

If there is a divine being who made everything, including us, what would our experiences with this being look like? The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. We are dealing with somebody we made up. And if we made him up, then we are in control. And so in passage after passage, we find God reminding people that He is beyond and bigger and more.

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