I Believed God’s Love is the Heart of the Matter 36 Years Ago. I Still Do.
The feminist expansion of our grasp of God beyond masculine images had not entered my consciousness in 1977. My use of “he,” “him” and “man” below makes me wince now. Otherwise, I find my statement of faith, examined in September, 1977, by the Pittsburgh Presbytery of the then United Presbyterian Church (USA) for ordination to the office of Minister of Word and Sacrament, is still an accurate expression of what I believe.
Statement of Faith, September 1977
God reveals Himself to me as The Lover in three kinds of actions.
First, God is the Lover who made the world, and especially humanity, in order to be in relationship with another. As Creator, God gives all things their form and substance; He, alone, gives significance and meaning to all that is: God energizes and supports all He has made, and especially humanity, the crown of His creation. Even now, God continues to create, to work His will actively in this world.
From the human perspective, this means that God is The Other, who calls us to be and grow in loving relationship with Him. Such love requires freedom, for the relationship between people and God would not be fully loving, if it were not entered into freely by both parties. And this is where we, creatures, go astray. In our freedom we choose to turn away from the relationship of love offered by God.
Second, God is the Lover who forgives our waywardness and calls us back to relationship with Him. Throughout history, and to individuals, God, the rejected Lover, has made overtures. The most radical and important is His own incarnation in Jesus, our Savior. In that act, God chose to heal the tare in the relationship between Creator and creature. God became man, offering in Christ a renewed relationship in love with Him. The life and death of Jesus is the enactment in history of the love of God and the rejection of that love by His people, for humanity refused to follow the call of Christ and tried to destroy Him.
In the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, God continues to reveal the power of His love as He, once more beckons us to Him. Now Christ lives in two ways: in Jesus, through whom God knows the suffering of His people and on whose account He forgives us, and in the body of Christ in this world, which is the church. This is the fellowship of those who accept the overture of love in Jesus and who pledge their lives to growth in relationship with God who is present among them in the Word and the Sacraments.
Third, God is the Lover who moves in the world as Spirit. This is the intangible mode of action by which God reveals Himself in our time. As Spirit, God fills this world, moving among and through us, giving us the ability to understand and enter into the loving relationship offered by God in the Creator and the Redeemer.
Through the working of the Spirit, the church is able to see and respond to God’s presence in the Word and Sacraments. Because of the indwelling of the Spirit in God’s work, one way to love God is to love one another, to love and serve all of God’s beloved creation.
As Spirit, the Lover enfolds us, making real the promises affirmed by Jesus Christ, drawing us to Him, and completing the work of creation, the bond of love between One and another.
I dug very deep into my heart in the summer of 1977 to be as honest and clear as I could about what I believe and what I would proclaim as the Gospel if I were approved for ordination by the Candidates’ Committee and the presbytery which has been my church home ever since. It continues to mystify me why they did not challenge calling God a Lover. Do you find that out of line?
When I look back, I can see how all the choices for action and service I have made—marriage, parenting, pastor, teacher, prayer, advocacy for LGBT people, building a LEED certified house, volunteering for Gore, Kerry and Obama, reaching out to those who judge me, for example—arise from these convictions. I am a little astonished that this is just as much a statement of my faith now as it was 36 years ago.
I hope you see that I proclaim God as Lover and our joy in loving God back by loving our neighbor as ourselves. It’s what I intended at the start and intend now.
How about you? When you dig into you heart, what words come to express your faith? And what arises in your choices from that? Has that changed much through time? Whether Yes or No, is that good? Why?
Rev. Janet Edwards