Devotion: Holy One
This devotion was given by NLC tenor, Jonathan Flak, prior to the March 8, 2016 rehearsal.
Holy One, untamed by the names I give you.
This is the opening line of a prayer posted on our church bulletin board by Roger, a member of my church. In that honest admission he names a common human failing that goes back to the Garden of Eden: to tame and manage God, to put God in a box, to create God in image of our choice.
Of course, there are other reasons to assign names to God: names help us to understand the nature of God, help us identify different aspects of the one God. Any single name we assign to God is an incomplete descriptor. Fortunately the scriptures, our hymnody and sacred poetry give us a rich lexicon full of images, names and adjectives for God.
We’ve recently sung these names: maker of heaven and earth, keeper of Israel, the one who watches over you while you sleep, wellspring, redeemer, creator, healer, teacher, mighty fortress, shepherd, source of life, peace maker, our refuge, a present help, God of Jacob, our stronghold, Lord of hosts, Great God A’ mighty, God of grace, God of glory, Adonai, Elohim.
The names for God that resonate with us are often predicated by our present needs. To the slave, God might be a comforter or deliverer. To those ravaged by war, God might be called peacemaker. To the hungry, God might come in the form of nourishment. To the homeless, God might be shelter. The sick might see a healer. The farmer might see God in the harvest. To a child, God is a loving parent.
We never know what words of assurance people need when they come to hear us. We know that we have a message. That message will resonate differently with everyone according to their needs. My hope is that we invite an expanded understanding of God, for our audience and ourselves. And that we spread the news that God is alive and well and untamed.
Now, back to Roger. He was a complex man. He lived a hard life with limited resources. He suffered from chronic back pain. He struggled with the light and the dark. He was a generous man who chose to live his life as an expression of God’s love.
I think it’s fitting tribute to him by closing with the rest of his prayer.
untamed by the names I give you,
in the silence name me,
that I may know who I am,
that I may hear the truth you have put into me,
that I may trust the love you have for me.
You call me to live out this love
with my sisters & brothers
in your human family.