Naming Toward and Circling Around 

Now as he was approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Luke 19:37-40

I love Confirmation class. As someone who didn’t grow up in the church, I adore this intentional time with our youth as we explore our faith intentionally. This is theology, which can seem like a big word, but it really is just our faith seeking understanding. Theology is a prayerful task that encourages us to listen, to be in relationship with God in order to know God, and by this relationship we are transformed.

This week, as our confirmands turned their attention to the question “Who is Jesus?” I picked up the credo I wrote as the capstone project for my systematic theology class. Credo is Greek for “I believe” and is the root word from which we get “creed,” which are our statements of belief.

I began each section of my credo with song lyrics. For the section on God, I shared:

That’s me in the corner / That’s me in the spotlight / Losing my religion

Trying to keep up with you / And I don’t know if I can do it

Oh no, I’ve said too much / I haven’t said enough.

– REM, “Losing My Religion” 

It was that last line that really struck me when I sat down to try to explain how I understand God. I wrote, “Language is inherently a symbol system and that does not stop when we speak of God. It is important to recognize all of our efforts as ‘naming toward God,’ trying to describe in some small the ineffable reality of God.”

This week, Kelly Latimore, an amazing artist who created the icon above, shared this quote from Father Richard Rohr: “Circling around” is all we can do. Our speaking of God is a search for similes, analogies, and metaphors. All theological language is an approximation, offered tentatively in holy awe. That’s the best human language can achieve. We can say, “It’s like – it’s similar to…,” but we can never say, “It is…” because we are in the realm of beyond, of transcendence, of mystery. And we must – absolutely must – maintain a fundamental humility before the Great Mystery. If we do not, religion always worships itself and its formulations and never God.”

~ from “The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation” 

Or to use one of those metaphors, understanding God is like scooping up the ocean in a solo cup – it’s true as far as it goes, but it’s definitely not all of it. 

Beloved, it is frustrating when folks hijack our language about God and use it to cause harm. There’s a danger of becoming speechless about God and our faith when words like God, Jesus, prayer, and Christian, are used to degrade and divide. 

But let’s not give up our holy work to the rocks. The world needs the faithful witness of those who know our God to be loving and just, willing to go to any lengths to embrace the creation – us included. Do not lose heart – you are not alone in this work!  Keep circling around the Great Mystery, inviting all of God’s beloved to the celebration.

I’m praying for you; I hope you are praying for me and our confirmands. I’ll see you on Sunday when we’ll continue our “This is My Body” series by considering how Jesus set boundaries.  


Pastor Jessica.