The Lord‘s Prayer: "in heaven"
‘IN HEAVEN’: the transcendence/otherness of God
As we continue our journey through the Lord’s Prayer we shift our focus from the opening word of ‘Our’ and the immanence of God, as denoted by the title father, to the transcendence of God conveyed by the phrase ‘in Heaven.’
As one contemplates and ponders the transcendence/otherness of God our mind is taxed beyond its limits. For we seek to comprehend the incomprehensible God armed with the dim flashlight of limited/finite understanding. But donot fret for we are bolstered in our inner journey with a heartfelt knowledge and conviction that God desires to be known, experienced and embraced.
Furthermore we have God’s own words in which he promises to reveal Godself to all who wholeheartedly seek after God. Apprehending God is a byproduct of desire not intellectual prowess. We need only to the wise enough to admit our limited ability to understand and comprehend the infinite God and foolish enough to allow this to propel us n our journey of divine discovery rather than dissuading us from this journey.
Please spend time prayerfully pondering and working through the exercises, remembering to bring your feelings, questions and concerns to God as they arise.
Part 2 The Transcendence/Otherness of God (God as father in HEAVEN)
R.C. Sproul writes concerning transcendence: “When we speak of the transcendence of God we are talking about that sense in which God is above and beyond us. It tries to get at his supreme and all together greatness…. transcendence describes God in his consuming Majesty, his exalted loftiness. It points to the infinite distance that separates God from every creature.”
As you seek to embrace the twin realities of your being able to know God and yet unable to fully know God, you might want to begin and/or end your time in the exercises by joining with the Psalmist in praising God:
Come, let us bow down and worship before the Lord, our maker, let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him, worshiping the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; trembling before him, ascribing to the LORD the glory due to His name; worshipping the LORD in the beauty of holiness and proclaiming the greatness of the Lord our God, for the Lord our God is the Holy One. (Psalm 95:6; 33:8; 96:9; 29:2; 99:9).
1. When you focus your attention on the transcendence of God what are the thoughts and feelings that arise within you? How does truth of God’s transcendence impact your image and love of God? Why?
2. Take sometimes slowly read and ponder the following statements:
As well might a gnat seek to drink in the ocean, as a finite creature to comprehend the Eternal God. C.H. Spurgeon
Fourth Lantern Counsel 1215 AD the difference between God in creature is infinitely greater than any similarity.
Ronald Rolheiser writes the following concerning God’s response to knows his question what is your name “I am the one who cannot be captured in thought, imagination, or feeling; the one who can never be controlled or manipulated; but who, despite this and because of it, is ever graciously and powerfully present to you.”
Let God be God is to live in an openness to the mystery and presence of God without limiting the nature or effect of that mystery and presence by any preset expectations or by any premature withdrawal from it…The proper approach to God is not to try to capture the presence of the infinite, but rather to celebrate that presence.
We must respect the fact that all concepts and imaginative constructs that we form of God and of God’s ways are fundamentally inadequate to understand God.
God can be loved the cannot be thought. He can be grasped by love but never by concepts. Less thinking and more loving. Cloud of Unknowing
What are the truths concerning who God is that are communicated by these passages. Do you agree or disagree with the above statements? Why? What feelings do these passages stir within you?
3. Spend some time reflecting on the following to passages of Scripture:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. ”For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! Romans 11:33
What feelings, thoughts concerning God arise within you as you focus on these to passages of Scripture? What might these two passes a Scriptures tell us about our ability to comprehend and understand who of God and the what, why of what God does? How do these insights take you feel about God, your life and your immediate future?
4. The transcendence of God communicates to us that God is other, beyond our ability to fully comprehend, understand or even articulate. God is a God that defies systemization, codification and classification. Yet our tendency is to place God in theological boxes which rob God of God’s ‘Godness.’
Take some time to explore the boxes that you tend to keep God imprisoned in. Why is it important for you to keep God imprisoned in these boxes? What is the benefit you derive from your practice of imprisoning God? What is it that you are losing in having a God who is limited? What might it look like to dare God to be God?
5. The attributes of God. Below you will find a list of the attributes of God that tend to emphasize the incomprehensibility and transcendence of God. Slowly read through the entire list and then come back to ponder those attributes which seem to grab hold of you. Allow your mind to grapple with the various attributes that got your attention, seeking not to limit or understand but rather to let them expand and explode your current view of this attribute.
Eternality of God: God is without beginning or end. God was not made or created. God has always existed and will always exist.
Self-Existence of God: God is not dependent upon or in need of anything outside of Godself. Thomas Aquinas said, “God is the first cause; himself uncaused.” God is!
Infinitude of God: God is limitlessness and measurelessness. God has no bounds, no beginning or ending. If one traveled to the outer parts of the universe they would be no closer to God nor farther from God than when they left. God is beyond all.
God is immaterial, incorporeal, invisible: God is spirit and as such has no material substance, no body. God has no extension. God cannot be measured or weighed and cannot take up space.
Immutability of God: God does not grow. God does not improve. God is unchangeable in his essence and attributes. There’s no variation in who God is. God is forever as God has forever been.
Omnipresence of God: God is present everywhere at once.
Omniscience of God: God’s knowledge is infinite. God knows things immediately, simultaneously, exhaustively, and truly.
Omnipotence of God: God is all-powerful and able to do
whatever God wants.
Trinity: The unity of God (there is one God) allows for the existence of personal distinctions (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) in the Divine nature, while at the same time recognizing that the Divine nature is numerically and eternally one.
There is only one God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit/Creator, Reddemer, Sustainer
Holiness of God: God is absolutely separate from and exalted above all his creatures, and is equally separate from all moral evil and sin. God is perfect in all that God is.
7. Below is a list of words that point to the otherness of God. Read through the list and spend time pondering those words toward which you seem most resistant when applied to God.
Take time to ask yourself the following: why am I resistant to this word? What might it tell me about my view of God and my inability to let God be God? What is the payback I get from limiting God and feeling that I can fully understand and explain God? Why might I be afraid to let God be God? What do I fear?
mystery, incomprehensible, inexplicable, inscrutable, unexplainable, unfathomable, unknown, transcendent, surpassing, inconceivable, unimaginable, awesome, fearful, frightful, ineffable, indescribable, inexpressible, transcendent, wholly other, unintelligible, awe-inspiring, astounding.
8. Isaiah 40 is one of the great Bible passages that communicates the otherness of God. Take your time and slowly make your way through this passage, paying attention to the images used to try to convey the greatness, immensity and otherness of who God is while also affirming God’s care and involvement. Move slowly through this passage, allowing yourself to really sit with the words and imagery found in these wonderful verses.
9. Read the following quote: Robert Mulholland, commenting on our tendency to keep God in the box of our understanding writes, “Where one has all the right answers, all the easy answers, all of quick fixes, there is no room for mystery. There is no room for a paradox. And if there is no room for mystery there is no room for God, because God is the ultimate mystery. One part of genuine spiritual pilgrimage is coming to the point where we let go of our limited concept of God….When we do this, we also lose our former awareness and sense of God's presence. We lose our grasp upon God…. let go of our control of God, to let God be God, and to dwell in mystery. Invitation to a Journey. 149
Are you ready to let God be God? Why or why not? What is lost and what is gain as you let God be God?
Next month the focus will be on the phrase ‘hallowed be your name.’
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