Thursday, May 22, 2008

If God Cares So Much, Then How Come.....?

This week's scriptures are Isaiah 49: 8-16 and Matthew 6: 24-34.

The Bible Study group on Monday found that these scriptures may raise as many questions as they give answers. They are comforting passages; that's true. But they also force us to ask some hard questions about our own anxieties and fears.

The passage from Isaiah is a good example. In the early verses, God-through Isaiah-talks about all the good things that have been done for God's beloved Israel. Look at the language:

"I have formed you" "I have destined you" "I answered you" "I came to your aid"

But Zion's reply to this is "The Lord has forsaken me: my Lord has forgotten me." Israel's fear of abandonment is strong. So, apparently, are the trust issues of those that Jesus reminds in our Matthew passage not to worry about their life, "what you will eat or drink, what you will wear."

Unfortunately these verses don't mean that everything is okay, that we can count on God filling our every need right now. If that were true, what would that say about Christians in other parts of the world (or even in America) who go hungry, who are poorly clothed, who suffer from illnesses brought on by poverty?

Things don't go the way we would like. Trouble is all around us; personally and from a world wide perspective.

It's easy to start feeling like the Hank Williams Jr. song that starts off

"The preacher man says it's the end of time
and the Mississippi river she's going dry.
The interest is up and the stock market's down
and you only get mugged if you go down town"

The song's solution, unfortunately is that owning a "shotgun, a rifle, and a 45" takes care of those problems. It's a solution (or some version of it) that can look very attractive when we're feeling helpless and anxious. It's a power based solution. But is it the solution we're called to?

Two things leap to mind for me (and there will probably be others before Sunday):

The first is that we live in an 'Escatological Hope.' That means we believe somethings about what the Final Word is going to be. We believe that God is moving in and through history to heal and restore creation. That movement is often bumpy and rough; and confusing to us as we stand in our little bit of the road. But we hold tight to our faith that God is going to have the final say.

The second thing is a belief that part of God's answer is us. You and I are called to be part of God's action. Listen to these verses from our Isaiah passage:

"I have formed you, and destined you to be a light for peoples, restoring the land and allotting once more its desolate holdings." God goes on to describe how the prisoners will go free, those in darkness will come into the open. How "one who loves them will guide them and lead them by springs of water." God speaks of calling creation home, "Theya are coming; soe from far away, some from the north and the west, and others from the land of Syene."

If it's going to happen...if the Kingdom of God is going to come...then you and I are going to have be part of the coming. Jesus told us, "the kingdom of God is within you" this is the same kingdom that is described as yeast in the bread baking in the oven...the thing that makes the loaf rise.

Still and all, we fear being forgotten. Our anxieties about tomorrow still trouble us, even if they're just a vague feeling underneath it all. We need to acknowledge this; put it on the table with God...that's part of what Zion was doing in the Isaiah passage. least in part...that's the conversation:

US-It's dark and I'm afraid

GOD-I'm here. I've always been here

US-I'm scared you'll leave. It's dark, I can't see what's going on and I can't see you.

GOD-Listen to my voice. I'm right here. I could never leave you...I love you.

US-(breathing a little calmer) Let me try to light a candle, someone else might be scared of this dark too.

It's a thought. We'll look at it further on Sunday.

I know many folks will be on the road this weekend. Please drive safe. And if you're in town, we hope you'll join us for worship on Sunday.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Funny - when I was at Quaker Meeting this Sunday, the topic was 'hope' - and we don't follow a lectionary!

I didn't get a chance to say in yesterday that I think the feeling of hope is one of the most tangible pieces of proof we'll ever have of God's existence. Something in us is always drawing us towards something better than the current situation.

Of course a cynic could say that that feeling is actually a void. That's why I really like the image of the kingdom of God rising in us like bread - that's hope.

After Meeting we had a guest speaker from Sudan, not much older than me, talk about how at 9-years-old he fled his burning village, hid in a tree for a couple days, dodged bullets, played dead, crossed and crossed the Nile on papyrus leaves because arriving at a refugee camp in Ethiopia. He now lives in the US, but has traveled back to Sudan to reunite with what is left of his family and is raising money to build a school in his village. Talk about hope!

I remember several years ago you musing about the fact that in your line of work as a therapist, your ultimate goal was to put yourself out of a job. That's the power of hope. But really, even if all the psychological ailments of the world were healed, I'm sure you and all the other therapists would go on to healing another wound or bringing those healed to another level.

And I'm guessing it's the same with this Sudanese man - right now he's hoping his village has a school. Once it's built he'll be hoping they have better materials, teachers, etc - maybe even hoping another village has a school. And if he acts on that hope - if we all do - we'll keep getting closer to the kingdom.

I guess it could be easier for that hope to turn to frustration or fear like you depicted in that dialogue, but if we remember hope is our link to God - that rising loaf of bread - maybe we'll keep moving forward.