In my first round of papers, here is how I talked about God:
We have come to know and trust in God primarily through scripture – which holds the accounts of faithful witnesses to God’s work in history. There we learn that the God we worship is not a passive entity, but jealous, powerful, and always seeking relationship with creation. While some theologians begin with the via positiva or via negativa to describe God, Wesleyan theology begins with the scriptures and from that place, redefines the “natural characteristics” of God. We come to know God’s nature through the covenant made with the Hebrew people and the new covenant of Jesus Christ, as well as the continuing witness of the Holy Spirit. Above all, these actions tell us that God works in ways that invite human response and gives us the power to respond in faith. This is particularly true in regards to God’s power – which Randy Maddox argues must “not be defined or defended in any way that undercuts human responsibility.” God seeks to work in co-operative ways; ways that build, rather than destroy, relationship...
In his own time, Wesley was familiar with not only the Western notions of the divine, but also explored Eastern conceptions as well, which Maddox claims influenced his theology in subtle, though profound ways. Though he never directly claimed the Eastern Orthodox understanding of perichoresis as a description of the Trinity, it is not disconsonant with other of his claims, and in fact helps us to comprehend the relational nature of God. If our sources and the ways in which God is revealed are diverse (the economic Trinity) and yet always in need of one another, it would make sense to assume that God’s internal relations (the immanent Trinity) are likewise diverse and in need of a constant dance.I still remember one of my Board of Ministry team members saying: I was a little worried about you after I read the answers to your first question... but then you got more practical.
Note to that team member: I actually did teach perichoresis... in a children's sermon, nonetheless... we got up and danced in a circle and it was fabulous.
The ordination papers as I understand them are meant to be more practical and experiential. So here is my answer to the question:
How has the practice of ministry affected your experience and understanding of God?
I have always firmly believed that God is relational and so it will come as no surprise that I have found and experienced God in the midst of the congregation. The lives of my parishioners carry on the story of God that was begun with the Hebrew people and we weave together our experience of God with the scriptures that have been passed on to us for future generations.
Photo by: William Vermeulen