We attended a very musically moving Choral Mattins at St. John’s Church, Elora yesterday, Trinty VIII/Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord. The sermon was given by a lay guest speaker, Dr. Harley Smyth (neurosurgeon at Trillium Health Centre) who shared his thoughts and beliefs on the Trnsfiguration and how it affected him in his practice. I think it is a good idea for lay people to share their thoughts on God so here, dear reader, you are about to get some of mine. Not all at once as I found Dr. Smyth’s lecture overly long and towards the end he was losing his listeners. Anybody who has not been to St. John’s should attend a service during the Festival; the Elora Festival Singers take over from the regular choir and the music is truly wonderful (the regular choir is good too as many are also members of the Elora Festival Singers.) Yesterday the guest organist was Matthew Larkin, Organist and Choirmaster of Christ Church Catherdral, Ottawa and the guest conductor was Wayne Riddell, founding conductor of the Tudor Singers of Montreal.
1. Paramount for all Christians is the Bible; it is of special authority in our theology. Here is the inspired record and interpretation of God’s love at work to liberate and transform our humanity and the world in which we live. While the Bible is the traditions and history of one particular people, the Jews, it also represents their understanding of God and shows the development of this understanding from a tribal God to the Christian’s universal God of Love. The Bible shows a developmental process in man’s understanding of God and there is great danger in emphasizing one part over another, of taking one part out of context from the whole. The process of revelation in the Bible witnesses to a dialogue between the inherited and the contemporary experience of the individual and the community. Under the best circumstances, reading the Bible from beginning to end we grow in our understanding of God just as the writers grew in their understanding. The Gospels fulfil the promises of the Old Testament and expand our understanding of God. Some Christians get stuck in the Old Testament stage with a vengeful God and all the "Thou shalt nots." Others that emphasis the great councils that came after the Gospels tend to ignore those elements of the Bible that were causing the disunity that necessitated the calling of those very councils. Christ taught that his Church was a living Church and that the Holy Ghost has been sent to help us grow in understanding. Christians should welcome new ideas – even old ones laid to rest by the great councils – the Holy Ghost will help us grow and see the truth. Note that while the Bible is paramount for Christian and Jew, it is not the sole revelation of God! The Word has spoken to others besides Christians and Jews; their revelation is equally valid. Christians that do not except this are locked in the Old Testament stage of spiritual growth. Their God is a tribal God and they believe they are the centre and object of God’s activity in creation. This is very egotistical. In the New Testament this elected people view is rejected and Christ calls all men His brothers.
2. The Bible begins with an impressive statement of faith in God, the Creator of heaven and earth and all things visible and invisible. God is the "I am who I am" of Exodus 3:14. The primary truth is revealed: the reality and unity of God, who is all transcendent, immanent and absolutely perfect. God exists from all eternity to all eternity. He is the only reality. As Islam says:
""God – there is no god but He, the Living, the Self–subsistent. Slumber seizeth Him not, neither sleep. To Him belongeth whatsoever is in the Heavens and whatsoever is in the Earth. Who is there that shall intercede with Him save by His Will? He knoweth what is present with men and what shall befall them, and nought of His knowledge do they comprehend, save what He willeth. His Throne is wide as the Heavens and the Earth, and the keeping of them wearieth Him not. And He is the High, the Mighty One."
God is the Creator of all things that exist and hence the Father of all intelligent beings. God is a loving being who created man with free will so that he could respond to God in love. God wants constantly to enter our lives and selves to make us increasingly more like Himself. There is abundant biblical evidence to suggest that God is active in all nations amongst all peoples at all times. What the writer of the Old Testament could only describe as the hand of God, the breath of God, the word of God, the New Testament calls the Holy Ghost.