The Almighty

In her book Consider the Birds, Reverend Debbie Blue challenges us to rethink our notions of a powerful God, a view of God which she links to our human obsession with dominance.

“Much of the world worships THE ALMIGHTY, if not a powerful, all-knowing deity, then just power. It’s like the default move. Power rules. What else would make God, God? Isn’t that practically what 'God' means – some magisterial, omnipotent, almighty protector?”

But Blue points out that scripture consistently portrays Jesus quite differently, citing the work of our mutual friend Dr. Doug Frank whose book, A Gentler God, illuminates this understanding. Rev. Blue notes:

“Doug Frank suggests that Jesus wants his followers to see that they have a sort of self-destructive allegiance to a big strong distant unknowable unsatisfying god. Jesus says, 'Receive me.'

If you look at Jesus with the idea that looking at him will tell you what God is like, God isn’t about showing us how great God is. …”

"'Receive me,' Jesus pleads. Jesus asks us to receive him. This is so different from a king demanding his subjects to bow down. God reveals Godself in the crucified Christ. Look at Him. His hands are tied. Luther said if we don’t look first at the crucified Christ to see God, we are making friends with the devil; the power of the world. Of course, we may want to make friends with the power of the world. It makes it much easier to live under its reign. What Luther saw, though, is that the God who hangs on the gallows crushed by the madness of human history is the only god that can help us.

Jesus reveals God’s essential being: not power (as human imagine this) – but love. Imagine God as a hen with her wings over her babies. That is not the same as a concrete bunker. There is some fragility in it.”                      

Our own fragility is uncomfortable, for so many good reasons. Contemplating the fragility of God even more so; for some, it’s a deal breaker. When Jesus began speaking of his pending death, his own disciples struggled, growing visibly upset. They didn’t want to hear that he would die by the strong arm of the state. Some followers, seeking political victory over Rome, even fell away. They sought a warrior king who would supplant Caesar’s rule.

But for those who stuck around, Jesus’ life and death revealed God’s deepest power: not weapons or status, wealth or might, not armies or money or fame. God’s deepest power is LOVE, unconditional and unreserved, free and bountiful beyond our wildest hopes or dreams, as fragile and as essential as breath.

We’re not saying God is not powerful. But perhaps it’s time to stop conflating how God’s power operates in the world with how we operate. Our notions of a powerful deity from whom all must cower in fear prevent us from seeing that we are offered so much more. One who comes to us not as the “Almighty," but this “Gentler God” of whom Frank speaks, who in the human person of Jesus embraces our humanity, loves even our frailty. Reverend Blue concludes:

“God is trying to get through to us that we are given love. We don’t actually even need to strive for it; it’s running through us. But try to imagine it. Wouldn’t it be a relief to know it - to feel like you could just be who you are: weak or cocky, patriotic, unpatriotic; common, uncommon; terribly fragile in moments, strong in others – a human being held in love.”

-- Kate Maynard

Source: Debbie Blue, Consider the Birds, p 185-188, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2013


The Right Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown, Bishop of Vermont

The Very Rev. Greta Getlein, Dean and Rector

The Ven. J. Stannard Baker, Cathedral Deacon and Diocesan Archdeacon

Mark A. DeW. Howe, Canon Precentor and Director of Music

Jennifer C. Sumner, Office Administrator

Barbara F. Comeau, Financial Administrator

Katie Gonyaw, Children's Formation Coordinator

Grace Jack, A/V & Social Media Coordinator