This is the fifth in a series on the Divine Alphabet.
God is excessive.
There was a film long ago called “O God” in which George Burns played the title role. I remember one line from it. God is asked if he ever made any mistakes. There was one, he says. “The avocado—the pit’s too big.”
We laugh. But my, isn’t the truth about creation that it is just too much? that it is superfluous? that there is more of everything than there needs to be? Dandelion seeds blowing in a slight breeze, a single oak tree making thousands of acorns over decades of its life, on and on and on: creation teems with excess, with fecundity, fertility. Even the universe as a whole, it now appears, is expanding! What a strange indeed impossible notion that is, that “all that is” continues to “take over” or “encroach” on “nothingness” that is beyond it. It doesn’t make any sense for the universe (which includes all the space that exists) to have more space. And yet it does just that.
In a class recently, we were trying to understand the traditional claim that knowing God is the creator doesn’t tell us anything about God in himself. Creation doesn’t yield any information about God’s nature or character. But (we wondered), doesn’t it tell us that God creates? It does tell us, yes, that God can accomplish things. But God would still be God even if there were no creation. There is nothing in God that makes it necessary for him to create anything.
There is nothing necessary in God. That’s why we can call God excessive.
Literally, to be excessive is to “exceed,” which is to go (that’s the “ceed” part) beyond or out (that’s the “ex”). God goes beyond anything necessary or required or in any other way fixed or determined. God keeps going beyond himself. The avocado pit, although it may look like a mistake, is actually a great picture of how God is always doing more.
And yet, to be fair, any time you do something loving or creative you are being excessive yourself—and that’s above all the best picture of God.
Friends, let us be excessive!
Readers write. I received a number of suggested “E” adjectives for God—with one friend sending me a list of 20 or 30. Without calling that list excessive (!), I will say it was exceedingly evocative! Among the other suggestions were “elegant,” which is good to remember, and “enervating,” which shows commendable honesty. With regard to “D” last week I forgot to report that we heard from the canine contingent. They support the claim that God is “dogmatic” (emphasis on the first syllable). I love this. Now to F.
Out & About. Wednesday, March 4, I’m to preach at St. John’s in Montgomery, Alabama, at the 12:05 service (on Job 2:7-13), and to speak at the 6:30 Lenten program. My evening talk will be on suffering and the question of God’s love. If you’re in Montgomery, it would be great to see you.
Sunday, March 8, I get to return to St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas to teach the “Unheard Words” adult class. Our topic will be Genesis 15, parts of which are avoided by the lectionary.
The next “Good Books & Good Talk” seminar will be on Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town. If you read it, you’re welcome to the conversation: Sunday, March 15, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Incarnation in Dallas.
June 8-10 in Baltimore. This year’s Pro Ecclesia conference will be on the Sermon on the Mount. I am responsible for this, and hope that, if you are able to come, you will! We have excellent speakers lined up who will explore this fundamental text in terms ranging from the biblical and theological to such things as the sermon in the arts and its economic feasibility. More information is here, and you can register now at the Early Bird rate: https://www.pro-ecclesia.org/