On my first airline flight after this fall's intensified security I arrived at the airport before dawn on a Saturday morning. Beginning with laying open the contents of the car's trunk, I went through each phase of assuring I intended to be a stalwart passenger. Just when I thought I had convinced everyone I had no ill intent and began to collect my change and valise from the conveyor belt, a security guard asked if he could "wand" me. Huh? Even though he was holding a hand held metal detector it took me a minute of dull, gaping, early morning processing time to get the drift. Sadly, what might have conveyed whimsical scenes from a Disney cartoon or a Harry Potter book, to wand is merely an electronic frisk.
Language is a fluid thing. In the world of my sixth grade grammar book, if a situation warranted you could borrow a verb and make it a noun for a bit by adding "ing," or get help from an adjective in modifying a verb by adding "ly." Times are different. During the Olympics last month I listened to a news broad caster claiming an athlete wasn't expected to "medal." Of course not, I thought, or at least meddling be kept at a level that doesn't warrant mention on the national news. When I read that a snow boarder had "medaled," the printed page allowed a quicker grasp of meaning. I will remember the 2002 Winter Olympics not for increased security but the creation of a new, if somewhat confusing, verb.
With seeming little forethought, "wand" and "metal" join a list of words that can be nouns or verbs. Light. Play. Respect. Love. Mother. I want to put God on that list too. Friends may remember how David Cooper's God Is A Verb resonates with me. The idea of God being a verb is an ancient one, and one that can radically expand our vision of God, and the experience of the Divine in our lives.
That old assumption of God being male comes in part, I suppose, from Genesis: "Then God said, 'Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves'.... So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:26-27, New Living Translation)
Created in God's image. But wait. When I look first twenty-five verses of Genesis that come before human creation, I find a busy God, but no mention of God's gender. The New Living Translation has, in those 25 verses, twenty references of God making (creating, saying 'Let there be...,' etc.) and mentions three instances of naming Divine handiwork ('God called the light day,' etc.) So in 25 verses God creates, names, makes, and calls 23 times before humans are brought forth.
God in Genesis is a creator. Not woman nor man, not tall nor fair nor bald nor fat. Humankind is created in God's image; we are created to create. We are called to bring about and conjure up and envision. Instigators of families and homes and gardens and pictures and books and houses of cards. Initiators of flights of fancy and poetry and binding relationships.
One of the names Jewish mystics have given God is Ein Sof, endlessness. Endlessly creating with our hands and with our minds, with our laughter and with our prayers.
As long as we're blithely changing parts of speech, lets remember to change God. Not a noun, not male nor female but the creative force. The force of love. The force of growth. The force of change. So when we go to the airport and wand each other, and we compete and medal, let's remember to God.
It is the way of changing the world, of overcoming evil and of bringing the kingdom--the experience--of God here among us.
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