The Divine Whisper

God is not the name of God. Christian practice has adopted the word god to refer to the only divine being, we acknowledge. Yet, God is not the name of God. We confront this issue when we see someone referring to the Being we believe in with the lower case “g” for god. Yet, we must acknowledge that Biblically speaking God has a name we do not pronounce. Why? Because we don’t know how.

Moses asks God his name so that the Israelites and presumably their Egyptian captors will have a name for the God of Israel. The name given HWYH and later as YHWH in our English letters translated from the Hebrew. It is a curious name often translated as “I am that I am.” But, the sounds of the consonants (we do not know what vowell markings we should use. The masoretic text makes some guesses here) are breathing sounds. The sound of human breathing is used for the Divine Covenant Name. 

Most English translations of the Bible (Old Testament) use the word LORD (all caps) in place of the Hebrew YHWH. This is a consideration to Jewish practice of speaking the Hebrew “adonai” instead of YHWH, Some English translations have attempted to transliterate the Name as Jehovah or Yahweh. This is as I said previously based on scholarly guess work. Personally, I prefer keeping the practice of using the word “LORD” because Jesus kept the practice except for the one incident in John 8. If it was good enough for Him. It is good enough for me. There is also another consideration. And this one gets to the heart of our understanding of the God of the old and new testaments.

Breath is the word that is also translated as Spirit in both Hebrew and Greek in the Christian Scriptures. The Spirit (or Wind NRSV) moves over the primordial waters and separates water from land. The same Wind from the East parts the Red Sea. God breathes in the adam and he becomes a living being. All animals with the breath of life are destroyed in the Flood which brings the primordial chaos back and then the wind re-creates the world (this time with the agency of the raven). Elijah hears God in the gentle stillness (still small voice KJV) on Mount Hored (Sinai). Whereas on the same mountain the voice of God was like Thunder (a violent rushing of wind). And the same voice speaks to Jesus in John 12. There are many other examples.

My point is that the Divine Name for which we use words like God and LORD are stand-ins for a word that may sometimes be a whisper and other times be a storm. This is why listening as well as praying is important. We need to know when God is speaking. And make certain it is not our voice drowing the Divine one out with trivialities.

The Gift of Healing

I once had a doctor who notified me when his staff was to receive their annual flu shots. I was to come in a receive one then too. Why notify me? My doctor was a religious man who while not a member of my church or denomination called all his clergy patients in to get a free flu shot. Why? He said, “I consider you a health care professional. You visit patients in the hospitals and that makes you more at risk. You are needed by those patients.”

I appreciated what he said. And I believe he was right to consider clergy members and church workers “health care professionals.” It is a consideration many people including us forget. My present day doctor does not do this. I am just an old person who needs the flu shot.

The gift of healing is often neglected by the church these days. Yes, I know many churches have “healing services of worship.” Most Christians pray for the healing of another person. I know these things because I too practice them. What I mean is that the church has since its’ inception been given a ministry to heal. Most of the gospels’ stories of Jesus are about healing from illness, crippling afflictions, possessions, and even death. We call them miracles or at the very least mysteries. My congregation today celebrates healings. We still have a ministry of healing that we often neglect because in our culture we have “health care professionals” to whom we go for a variety of complaints and receive treatments. The church takes a position with regard to healing by standing back and praying the treatment works.

The whole argument over health insurance in our culture is about how we should limit and pay for the treatments the medical professionals give us. There is also an argument over whether we should have faith in God or scientific materialist treatments. There is another argument over church sponsored medical centers. And there is another debate over whether healing in the New Testament was simply miraculous or mythical while today we should trust the medical institutions for the treatment of disease. These arguments are of the “either/or” variety and debate how we should limit healing.

I do not believe the limit we have put on the gift of healing fits the gospel definition of it. Former Surgeon General of the United States C. Everett Koop argued that what is really missing in present medical practice in the US is “the care.” Patch Adams famously argues that “practicing medicine” is not the domain of medical professionals. The church once agreed with both of these views. Even in 21st century America the majority of examples of medical practice and treatment is done at home. Medical care is primarily done by family and friends. Neighbors may bring food to a sick person. Certain foods are said to help certain illnesses. Chicken soup is still a recognized remedy by most people. A family member or a trusted friend will often administer prescribed drugs to a patient. Seeing to the cleanliness of the patient and his or her room will be done by someone who “cares.” Please note the word. All too often we equate the word “healing” with the word “curing.” They are different words with different definitions.

The Gift of Healing is given to the church to be given to anyone who needs it. Yes, by all means, pray for healing. I believe that prayers can help us focus our care. I believe we communicate love both human and divine love through prayers. I once gave a new-born child in intensive care a blessing for healing. God allowed her to live. She is now five years old and a beautiful little girl. Christopher Hitchens journalist, atheist, and contrarian thanked people who prayed for his healing because he knew it meant they cared. When we are nearby a person who is ill we should not limit ourselves to prayer. We can help in some way. The church should show care. We should give the gift of healing.

Wasting Time

If you ever want to see me at my passive-aggressive rebellious best, make me believe you are wasting my time. Make an appointment but don’t show up, you are on my list. Extend a meeting with inanities, I will either walk out or call a point to close the meeting. I am definitely peevish about time. Preacher, please say it once and I’ve got it.

I don’t how I developed this attitude. Perhaps, it was the feeling that jobs that I did not like doing as a kid were being needlessly stretched out to fill time. Barbara Kingsolver once remarked that her mother used eight hours of every day to clean the house. She knew she could do it in a fourth of the time. One can always believe there is something else to be done while a job that is not so pleasant takes time. I have noticed my children can always hurry to do nothing worth while…in my opinion. Stop arguing with me and just do what I told you.

Efficiency is the watch word of the industrial world. This is such a problem for us in this age that people will leave an exciting and riveting ballgame to be sure to get a jump on traffic. If time is so precious, why did they come to the game, the theater, or to church?

This is a good question that brings my type-A personality into judgment. “Aren’t you ready, yet?” Or how about, “I’ll rest when I am dead.” I recall Jesus taking time for prayer and rest. I wonder why Christians in our culture believe that we must always be doing something that just fills time.

Most meetings and reports in the business world are about managing other people. It is a way of commanding presence and teaching who is in charge. When a business is failing, meetings increase and more data is collected. Selling product gets lost. The same holds true for a church. Ministries are pushed aside “because we can’t afford them.” While meeting to see how we can “turn things around” increase. Learn a new technique or gimmick and this will help.

I now have exposed another reason for my peevishness about efficiency. When I worked in the business world we tended to make better sales when more people were working at selling. When someone worked at managing paperwork and people, it took away from the primary purpose for having a store (or later a factory). Misplaced efficiency said do more with less. Pharaoh said make bricks without straw. It was and is the same problem.

The church today is full of leaders (both lay and ordained) who want to fix the problem of decline by doing everything but live out the Good News of God’s kingdom. Why do we believe God is impressed with our ingenuity? The only time Jesus dealt with numbers was to ask the disciples why they had no faith when they had fed 4000 people and then 5000 people.

America though believes busyness is next to godliness. We must always plan something for our hardest workers and hardest working volunteers to do. If we can’t find enough, we will hold a meeting. But, the meeting must have a purpose. A formula or technique must be taught. So, here it is. Be Christian. Make your church a fellowship of Christians living out the values of the reign of God because that is all the church is selling. Salvation was never our product. That was and is God’s business. Our business as Christians is to be Christians.