"Images of God as lord and king are balanced by the images of God, especially in Jesus, as shepherd, suppliant, and servant. The Hebrew Scriptures refer to earthly kings as 'shepherds,' showing how God intends for human authority to be used. The image of God as servant can be tricky, too. It may be dangerously easy to move from the image of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples to the thought that God, as a good servant, should do as we say. That fallacy may be much harder to fall into if we also have the images of 'Lord,' 'Master,' or 'King' in our box. Our God-box should be designed like our government — full of checks and balances.

"The Created Order

"Finally, there are those 'animal, vegetable, and mineral' images that keep our understanding of the Creator connected to creation. As the creed of The United Church of Canada begins, 'We are not alone; we live in God's world.' God has been willing to bear the image of both lion and lamb, wind and water, fire and rock, eagle and hen, vine and salt, all while being the Light of the World. With only one or two images, it's easy to have a distorted view. But with all of these images together in our box, we can hardly open 'our eyes without seeing the face of God.

"New Images

"We need to keep our boxes open to new images of God. These biblical images aren't the only ones. On any given Sunday, pastors around the country can be found giving children's sermons that present new images: 'God is like this flashlight,' or 'God is like this teddy bear,' or 'God is like this bar of soap.' Sometimes the images we hear don't strike us as being that benign. Some people still cannot imagine God as black or gay or even dressed in something other than a bathrobe and sandals. Maybe we need to sit with some difficult images for a while, before we rule them out. Jesus certainly encouraged his listeners to do that. Jesus must have horrified some listeners as he implied that God was like a heretical, racially mixed Samaritan.

"We won't always be ready to put every image we're offered into our God-box. But if we can keep the box open — if we can keep the humility that shows us we can know God in many, many ways — we've made it easier to love and harder to judge one another."