Session 3: A God Who Speaks

Resources for participants

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

3A:

  • Which churches or religious buildings have you ever visited? Which is your favourite and why?
  • What struck you about the churches or religious buildings you have visited? What features stood out for you?
  • Which is your favourite place in the world and why?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

 

3B:

  • If you were God, what would you do to convince people that you existed?
  • If God exists, do you think he would want to communicate with us? Why?
  • What do you think about the idea that God is “personal”: that he made us and knows us and loves us?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

 

3C:

  • What comes to mind when you think about Jesus? What have you learnt or picked up about him?
  • Why do you think Jesus is so important to people of Christian faith?
  • What do you associate with the idea of Christianity or with Christians?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

 

READINGS FROM THE YOUCAT FOR THIS SESSION

If you are using the YouCat with your Sycamore group, please click here for general advice about the YouCat and how to use the readings. Here are the readings that go with this week’s Sycamore session:

  • #7 to #10 – God reveals himself [2 pages]
  • #358 – images of God are forbidden [1 page]
  • #71 to #85 – who is Jesus Christ? [7 pages]

NB the numbers (#) refer to paragraph numbers in the YouCat and not to page numbers. The number in [square brackets] at the end tells you roughly how long this passage is in terms of the pages you need to read (excluding picture pages).

 

LONGER READINGS FROM THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

If you have more time, and if you want to go deeper into the topic of this session, you can follow up by exploring the longer Catechism of the Catholic Church. See the standard online version here, and a digital “flip-book” edition here. Here are the readings that go with this week’s Sycamore session:

NB the numbers (#) refer to paragraph numbers in the Catechism and not to page numbers. Click on the links themselves to read the paragraphs in the online version.

 

KEY IDEAS FROM THE FILM

3A – The hiddenness of God

In many religious traditions there is an emphasis on the hiddenness of God. Yes, God exists. But there are limits to what we can know about him. He is a God of silence, of darkness, of mystery. God is infinite and eternal and completely beyond anything we can understand or imagine.

But there is another tradition as well: of trying to say at least something about the mystery of God. When we look at the world, its existence, its beauty, its order, it says something about God; about his power, his generosity, his intelligence, his wisdom, his goodness. Creation points to a creator.

The mystery at the heart of the universe is not an abstract force but a God who is alive, who is personal, who calls us into a relationship with him. This is one of the key insights of the Jewish and Christian and Muslim traditions. The bible says that God is a “living God”, who is “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” Christians have come to address God as “Father”, which reminds us of his goodness and his care for the whole of creation.

It makes such a difference to know that there is a creator and a meaning to creation. To know that your life is not just a product of chance, but that it has meaning and purpose. To know that God is good, and trustworthy, even if you have unanswered questions about the world and the meaning of life. St Augustine said that God is infinitely beyond us, yet closer to us than we are to ourselves.

The goodness of God is just a starting point. But it’s an important one. And it leads to another question: If he is so good, would he try to speak to us?

3B – When God broke the silence

If there is a loving God, do you think he might try to speak to us, to catch our attention in some way? If you think there is even a chance that God might exist, would you listen out for him, look for him; on the basis that maybe he is looking for us, reaching out to us? This idea is called “the possibility of revelation”.

If someone is open to the idea of a loving God, then in makes complete sense to be open to the idea that he might reveal himself to us. How would he do that? Who knows! But at least we can be open. Our openness might help us to hear better, the way a parent hears better than everyone else when they are listening out for their own children.

And when we look carefully into human history, we see that in fact God has been speaking to us in different ways. He spoke to a tribal leader called Abraham and gathered together a Chosen People, the Jews. He revealed the tragedy of sin, of all the ways that human beings have turned against him and each other. And he revealed the hope of salvation, of one day being united with him and with each other.

He came first to the Jewish People, not to exclude everyone else, but so that his message could in time be shared with all. And Christians believe that God’s promises to them have been fulfilled with the coming of the Saviour, Jesus Christ.

God has spoken to us in history, using signs and symbols and people and events. He has not left us alone. He has broken the silence. He has come to our help.

3C – Discovering the face of God

The basic facts of Jesus’s life are agreed by most historians. This is not just mythology or Christian propaganda. We’ve got more hard evidence about his life than we have for almost anyone in the ancient world.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem just over 2,000 years ago. He grew up in a Jewish family in the village of Nazareth about 60 miles north of Jerusalem. He was a carpenter who then became a rabbi, a Jewish teacher. He impressed people with his teaching and his ministry of healing, and gathered a group of followers around him in a community he called the Church.

He got into a long-running confrontation with the religious authorities and was put to death by Roman Crucifixion in Jerusalem. His followers claimed that he had risen from the dead and appeared to them, and that he was still present with them in some mysterious way. That’s the summary.

What’s equally striking is the way he touched people’s lives. His teaching made a deep impression on them. His kindness moved them. His stories amused them. His honesty shook them. His prayer had an intensity and a sincerity they had never seen before.

It’s clear in the bible that Jesus is much more than a prophet or a teacher. His followers come to worship him as they would the God of Israel. So when we look at Jesus we look into the face of God.

This is the Christian faith: That Jesus is the Son of God, who comes from the Father. That he is God himself, because he shares God’s very nature.