“We can be assured that we are creating God in our own image when it turns out that God hates the same people we do.” Ann Lamott

While preparing a sermon a few years ago for my home church in Illinois, I consulted the lectionary for the suggested texts for the day. The lectionary always has one or two Old Testament texts, a Psalm, a text from one of the Gospels, and another New Testament text. There is usually some discernible common theme among the texts. This particular Sunday, the many texts seemed to have little in common, but instead presented a confusing array of verses about God.

In one text, God is presented as a vengeful God calling for the destruction of a city, and Abraham bargains with God to preserve the city. In another God seems to mess with Hosea’s life (one of the prophets) in order to make a point to the rest of the people. The Psalm portrays a nationalistic God. David pleads for God to again favor Israel and exclude all others from His mercy. The Gospel lesson was about Jesus teaching his followers to pray, giving them what we now call the Lord’s Prayer. Upon inspection, the prayer is essentially the prayer of a child. It is not likely the kind of prayer Jesus uttered in his solitude, but rather a prayer for one in the early stages of learning about God’s nature.

The final text of the lectionary was from the letter to the Colossians, and it was about growth, about letting your roots go down deep in the soil of God’s love, to deepen in our understanding and faith. This passage gave me a clue about what might be going on with all these other confusing images of God.

None of these is a full, accurate picture of God. Each of these likely says more about the writer of the story than it does about the God of the story. Each is incomplete and biased depending on the time and experience of the teller.

Each of these is like a snapshot of God. It fully captures the moment, but it fails to capture the full experience. We’ve all had pictures taken in which our face is frozen in a gesture that is not congruent with the moment. In mid-word it looks like a grimace when in fact we are telling a funny story. Snapshots accurately portray the moment but do not tell the full story.

I suspect that is true in my concept of God at any given moment. It is my best guess, it evolves and deepens over time, but it is always based on my history and in the present moment.

I love the quote from Ann Lamott at the top of this entry. It reminds me that I am always creating God in my own image, because I am human and I am bound by my own experience. But it is my responsibility to be still, to be open, to be willing to unlearn my image of God in order to make room for something new.