FAITH MATTERS: God is a verb

Last Friday afternoon a group gathered in the Diocesan Library for our monthly Formation Friday session. This month’s focus involved exploring the Trinity and interconnectedness through the divine dance.

The group watched a short clip featuring Richard Rohr who introduced the concept of a universe shaped by shared identity. He explored how understanding the interconnectedness of all creation through the lens of the Trinity can transform our worldview and spiritual practice. Rohr emphasized the importance of seeing ourselves as part of a larger, divine flow, moving beyond individualism to embrace a shared, collective identity. One point which was raised and proceeded with deep theological reflection within the group causing some division was ‘God is a verb’. Some people left the gathering still grappling with this concept, so I am using this opportunity to unpack the idea a little more.

Verbs are words that show an action, they are doing words, I first came across the concept of God being a verb whilst studying Father Stephen Bevans’ theology. Bevans writes, ‘I began to realize that our God–the God revealed to us by Jesus of Nazareth through the power of the Holy Spirit–might be best described as a verb, not a noun, as there is nothing about our God that is static.’ He believes that we are in such relationship with God that a dance emerges, a great conga line that is moving through the world, inviting all of creation to join in the dance.

Bevans also writes about God being Mission. ‘Not that God has a Mission, but that God is Mission. This is what God is in God’s deepest self: self-diffusive love, freely creating, redeeming, healing, challenging that creation.’ Bevans comments on a point that one of his colleagues made: ‘God is love hitting a cosmic fan’, if we think about this action of love which is tangible, and a verb, it should be far flung spread throughout the world.  Jesus reveals the God who is a verb: ‘God is a God who reigns, and God reigns by forgiving, healing, saving, reconciling, being in relation’ and Jesus shows us what God is like.

 ‘Jesus reveals the nature of God. The disciples experienced Jesus as alive in their midst, especially when they gathered to break bread and share the cup of wine in his memory. Through the memory of his actions of healing and loving, gradually they began to realize that his mission–the mission of God, was their mission, so they joined the conga line, and the mission began to have a church.’

Jesus taught by doing, he taught in parables which opened the opportunity for those who listened to embody this learning. What had started out as movement in Judaism had become something much bigger and greater, there was a spirit that was moving through the community and a mission to go out and do.

Bevans reflects, ‘We are most church not when we are building up the church, but when we are outside of it: being good parents, being loving spouses, being diligent and honest in our workplace, treating our patients with care if we are health-workers, going the extra mile with our students if we are teachers, living lives responsible to the environment, being responsible citizens, sharing our resources with the needy, standing up for social justice, consciously using inclusive language, treating immigrants fairly, trying to understand people of other faiths, etc. etc. Mission calls the church into being to serve God’s purposes in the world. The church does not have a mission, but the mission has a church. Imagine what our church would be like if Christians really understood this and took this seriously.’

So, if Jesus reveals the nature of God which is love and mission, God is an outpouring to connect with the other to continue the divine dance, God must be a verb. This leads us to question how can we be love and mission to continue great conga line.

Follow on Facebook.