Who or What is God?

/Who or What is God?

Welcome to the Yoga Church Sunday Sermons.

As you know spiritual study, practice, and community are my favorite things to think about, talk about, do, and build. For many years I felt spiritually homeless and I’ve spent the last decade searching for spiritual answers. I went to seminary. I took multiple yoga teacher trainings. And I dove deep into the ancient scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and yoga. I still have big questions, but they’re different now, and I’m at a point where my heart feels full and my spirit feels calm.

I no longer feel spiritually homeless, but I know a lot of people who do. Because of the support and gifts I received in my own searching, I feel a deep sense of call to offer useful, practical tools to support spiritual seekers of all faiths and those with no particular faith at all. The world is busy, divisive, and stressful. It can be hard to find spiritual connection that feels authentic to you. It can be hard to find safe space to wrestle with the deepest questions of your heart. I want to help you find this connection and space.

Today I am launching The Yoga Church Sunday Sermons in the hope of offering a weekly touchstone for your spiritual life. There’s nothing fancy here, just a regular old weekly sermon. But they’re delivered online (so you can stay in your pajamas if you want to!). And they weave together teachings from the east and west. These sermons don’t seek to give you hard and fast answers, but rather to offer you new ways to think about the biggest questions in life. This week we start with a doozey… Who, or what, is God?

If you’ve spent any time with me, you may have heard me compare the search for God to the act of trying to reach the horizon point.

"Reaching for the Horizon" mixed media painting on wood 6x12 inches

After writing this sermon, I made a little painting. Layers and layers of paint, all highlighting the bright gold band in the center. That mysterious, unreachable point, that is somehow always, already within us.

I’m offering this sermon in multiple formats. You can watch the video (it was filmed in my beautiful back woods!), listen to an audio recording, or read the text. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find a great list of reflection questions to help deepen your personal study.

And, please, please, please, add your voice to the conversation in the comments below. Community takes more than one. I can’t build this thing on my own. I need you.

Who, or what, is God?

Watch:

or Listen:

or Read:

We live in a world in love with opposites. With sides. We live in an era of divisiveness. We allow ourselves to be controlled by likes and dislikes, approval and disapproval. We find our identity in the side we claim.

The yoga sutra-s teach us that the goal of yoga postures is to build such a centered seat that we are no longer upset by the play of opposites. A useful goal to be sure, but one we haven’t yet reached.

For our mood is set based on whether we are hungry or full, happy or sad, cold or hot, us or them. We seek pleasure and avoid pain.

In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna tells Arjuna: “Having made yourself alike in pain and pleasure, profit and loss, victory and defeat, engage in this great battle and you will be freed from sin.

Having made yourself alike in the face of opposites. It’s that same goal again. And yet, most of us are being tossed about by the constant push and pull of pain and pleasure, profit and loss, victory and defeat. We live at the whim of the various opposites we face each day.

What are the opposites you face? I invite you to investigate your life. Notice the power that like and dislike have over your moods, thoughts, feelings, and actions. And in your investigation, explore how the pull of opposites has effected your concept of God.

God is a powerful word, full of baggage for most of us. If I ask you what is meant by the word God, what are the opposites that arise for you? True God vs false gods. A judging God vs a loving God. A personal God vs Universal Energy. A Creator vs. Non-existent. All powerful vs powerless.

I wonder though, what if we didn’t pin God down under our love of opposites? What if we allowed the concept of God to be utterly undefinable? What would it feel like to set the opposites aside. And open ourselves to the reality of unknowing?

It might feel scary. Or exciting. But really, these are just more opposites. Whether you find yourself leaning more toward the side of belief or dis-belief, I’m asking you to risk yourself for a moment … Let go of answers and open toward mystery.

We live in a loud, anxious, stressed out world. Mystery can be hard to find. So I offer you this invitation: Come, seek, behold!

These three verbs invite us into spiritual practices, based—not on right belief or correct answers—but on movement, curiosity, and wonder!

It is not my objective to define Divine Mystery for you. It is my hope that you will accept an invitation, of moving toward, Divine Mystery, using whatever word best describes that reality for you. It is my hope that you will search for meaning in this path we are all walking between the ultimate pair of opposites—birth and death. It is my hope that you will be present in the transformative experiences of awe that arise in your life.

I have no interest in asking you to believe something. I will tell you, though, one thing that I believe. I believe that God exists beyond the realm of opposites, beyond the realm of our human perceptions and language. And because of this belief I do have one hard standard when it comes to Divine Mystery. The word God, and the religions that form around God, should never be used as a tool of oppression. However God is defined, it is my belief that our spiritual practices should lead us toward becoming kinder, more peaceful people of integrity.

I believe that God—the word I’m comfortable with for Divine Mystery—exists beyond our definitions. But not beyond our experiences. The mystery of God exists within the world in which we live. Hence my invitation to you: Come, seek, behold.

COME – Approach. Draw near. Move toward.

SEEK – the act of seeking is written into our DNA. We are emotionally primed for curiosity.

BEHOLD – Stand in awe, allow yourself to experience your glimpses of the ineffable without attempting to define them.

Go out into the world and pay attention. Pay attention to the faces you see… Pay attention to the beauty… To the suffering… To the joy… Search for Divine Mystery in the known of your life. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus claims that as we do for the least of these, we do unto him. This scripture is telling us that when we feed the hungry. We are feeding God. The Isha Upanishad opens with the stunning line: “In the heart of all things, of whatever there is in the universe, dwells the Lord.” Another translation reads: “All this is for habitation by the Lord.”

Divine Mystery is everywhere, in everything. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is within us.

So come, draw near, move toward your own center. Allow yourself to quiet down under the noise of the world and seek the voice within. Listen for that of God within you. And when you return to the noise of the world, search out that of God in everything and everyone you see. Remember: “All this is for habitation by the Lord.” …

Come, seek, behold.

The title of this sermon is: “What or Who is God?” And clearly, I don’t have an answer for you. In fact, I don’t believe there is an answer to the question. And yet, I have spent the better part of my adult life searching for one. And I know that not a single moment of this searching has gone to waste. In fact, I will continue to seek. I will continue to draw near the God who in the Hebrew Bible tells Moses: I AM WHO I AM. Ancient Hebrew words that can also be translated as I AM WHAT I AM or I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE. This name for God, apparently offered by God, speaks of the ungraspable nature of God that exists beyond our world of constant change, beyond our world of opposites.

So I give you no answers. And I hope you don’t find an answer, but I pray that you’ll search for one.

Come, Seek, Behold.

Move toward your center. Move toward the world. Seek the quiet that exists underneath the noise of anxiety, stress, and constant motion. And behold the mystery you find there.


REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  • What pair(s) of opposites feel dominate in your life right now?
  • Have you ever had a hard and true answer for God? What does it feel like to be asked to embrace mystery over answers?
  • Have you experienced, witnessed, or been the cause of the concept of God being used as a tool for oppression? How has this effected your relationship with yourself? The world? And Divine Mystery?
  • What spiritual practices help you feel closest to the experience of Divine Mystery?
  • Are there any texts (scriptural or otherwise) that help you understand Divine Mystery? Any specific passages you can share with us?

LET’S TALK!

We all benefit from the wisdom of spiritual community. And community means more than one voice, so please add yours to the conversation.

 

By | 2018-09-13T11:16:52+00:00 September 9th, 2018|Art, Nature, Religion, Scripture, Spirituality, Yoga, Yoga Church Sunday Sermons|14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Deborah September 9, 2018 at 4:28 am - Reply

    So grateful for this thoughtful encouraging wonder-filled Sunday sermon. I love being able to see you as well as later read the message. And hearing the birds sing – such grace. My one boundary around my understanding of God is similar to yours – a deep trust and experience that God is love and therefore cannot be used to oppress or harm. And while I hope to always be a seeker – I also hope to continue to ‘find’ – not definitive answers to all my questions but find that place within where I experience and know God and Gods Love — that as you said then sends us out to serve. To extend (in my language) the love of the Living Christ to others – especially ‘the other’. Grateful for your ministry Summer.

    • Summer
      Summer September 13, 2018 at 10:32 am - Reply

      Thank you for sharing some of your understanding of Divine Mystery with us Deborah. You have always brought such wisdom and care to my life and I am grateful others can share in that wisdom here!

      Can you believe the birdsong? It almost sounds piped in… But it is the sound of my woods. Such a blessing!

  2. Stephen Johnson September 9, 2018 at 9:28 am - Reply

    The universal principle of the dialectic of opposites, in part, states that reality lies on the thread or tension or relation between opposites ( regardless of what those opposites are). That there exists a continuum between opposites, and that the nature of a continuum presupposes a movement upon that continuum. ( a coherence?) Is it not our practices, our discipline, our intention fueled by the spirit, as aspect of self, that provides the impulse, the energetic that helps us to move on that path, that continuum. To linger midway is to see both extremes ( the middle way?) and then to choose to move toward the “ Divine Mystery” is to assist one to physicalize spirit, to manifest compassion, to play in the fields of, the mountains of, the waterways of… Thank you SO much for walking that path ( as so lovingly seen in your walking toward the pulpit) for opening that door and inviting us to step through, partnered by the sounds of birds. I tend towards the private, the monastic ( if you will) but this bears the hope of a Sangha. Again, thank you and bless your work.

    • Summer
      Summer September 13, 2018 at 10:37 am - Reply

      Moving toward the middle way has taken me quite some time…and I appreciate your reflection here Stephen, which reads like meditative poetry. I too tend toward the private and monastic, so this is a bit of a leap! But I offer it in the hopes of Sangha, so thank you for sharing your wise words with us all.

  3. Adriana Cabrera September 9, 2018 at 11:17 am - Reply

    Wonderful way to start the day as Silvia and I got ready for our weekly bike ride. This sermon really set the day to invite us to pay attention to our surroundings during our ride.

    • Summer
      Summer September 13, 2018 at 10:39 am - Reply

      Oh wonderful! I love your tradition of Sunday rides… What a way to experience Sabbath.

  4. Sarah Birger September 9, 2018 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    I just shared your sermon on social media as I hope to encourage more connection around nd your heartfelt sharing and thoughtful work. My chanting practice is what helps me get beyond duality. Perhaps the science of Naad is a factor in the way your first sermon’s soundtrack was such a pleasant combination of spoken word, bird song and musical accompaniment that amplified your message of “come, seek, behold.”

    • Summer
      Summer September 13, 2018 at 10:48 am - Reply

      Thank you SO much for sharing Sarah!!! Chanting is such an important part of my practice as well. And I find the bird song to be such a lovely experience of the earth’s chanting…

  5. Nancy September 9, 2018 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    Thank you Summer! For moving forward with your dreams, Yoga Church. To share with us a weekly message for self reflection, noticing the world around us, and looking for God, around us and within us.

    Today’s message on opposites… has me thinking about the push and pull of the world’s various systems, and the push and pull of myself within that framework. Aren’t we all part of this picture, whether we push or pull? and what if we just paused, and observed, noticed, without having to take action on every single opportunity that presents itself? I don’t mean ignoring, or running away from difficult things, but what if taking some moments to just observe, and see the way things are, without judgment on anything? For me, it takes the “pressure” off from having to “act” on every single opportunity. At least for a little bit.

    noticing, reflections, acceptance

    • Summer
      Summer September 13, 2018 at 10:45 am - Reply

      Nancy, YES! So beautifully said. It does take the pressure off, but even more important to me, cultivating a pause allows us to experience the reality of any given moment with a different sense of clarity. When we pause, observe, and notice without taking immediate action, we can breathe and feel and decide when, how, and if to move in any given direction. We can function with intention, rather than simply passing through the days of our life bouncing between opposing reactions on auto pilot.

  6. Travis Poling September 9, 2018 at 10:18 pm - Reply

    Summer, Thank you for these words. They resonate very much with my experience. Gd is a mystery I’m continually trying to understand less and search for more. Blessings on this new venture. I’ll be watching.

    • Summer
      Summer September 13, 2018 at 10:41 am - Reply

      As someone who always wanted to “get things right” it has taken me a very long time to value the spiritual discipline of “understanding less.” But I feel now, that the most important mysteries must be felt and experienced, not understood.

      So glad to share this community with you Travis!

  7. Marci September 17, 2018 at 6:04 am - Reply

    Love, love, love. I’ve long since felt that God and whatever comes next after this life is beyond our human brain’s ability to comprehend and that any attempt for us to define either falls short of the true experience. Thank you for your words….much love, dear one!

  8. Pam September 18, 2018 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    I finally got to sit down and watch this first Sunday sermon. I love the setting and the wonderful sounds and seeing your pooch. As soon as you asked what opposites I feel in my life I thought of the command to love everyone and yet I find myself disliking our country’s leaders. Without getting political, how do we feel love towards someone who we don’t respect? For me this is a constant push and pull struggle. How do I reflect God’s love in my life if I have contempt for someone?

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