The Voice and Character of God Among Us
Proper 5 (year c)
psalm 146, 1 kings 17.8-24, luke 7.11-17, & galatians 1.11-24
galatians 1.11, 15-17a
For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin;...
But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went...
The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us!" and "God has looked favorably on his people!" This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country. (Luke 7.15-17)
" God's mercy and justice for the oppressed, as described in Psalm 146, are not typical of the "lords" of this world, but they are characteristic of the God who spontaneously reaches out to bereft widows in 1 Kings 17 and Luke 7. " - Jim Rice
Often, we believe that God is bound in duty to perform for us. We silently think that when all goes wrong in our lives, that he is less than God if his deliverance is not here when we order it-like at the drive-thru window.
This also affects us in our "want-to" lives. If I am uncomfortable, or don't "want to" do something, embrace someone, or step outside "self," then God is not "leading me" to do so. "After all, he would never want me to be uncomfortable." "In fact, I am convinced that these just are not my gifts, and to engage out side of those giftings will be counter-God." We expect unlimited happiness and if any difficulties come, somehow this is "the enemy" and not God. In the past we have talked about tests that approve us (God's test), and tests to undo us (satan's tests). How do we know the difference, or is there a difference--outside of allowing the test to run it's course and effecting change in us. Trouble does come to us in the everyday, and even if it doesn't draw near, or crouch at our own door (I don't mean to infer that sin is attached to trouble), it is at least present within our circles-friends, family, co-workers,..
It is also always very present within the Churches harvest field-and ironically prevalent. Suppose everything was okay in your circles-no one having a single worry-happy go lucky-just good clean Christian fun...? Drive a few minutes (or less in any city). You will find despair.
I talk to, and have a lot of homeless friends, and they walk by well lit houses at night, warm in the winter, and with windows shut with comfortable air conditioning in the summer, as they swelter outside, exhausted from the heat. I know how they feel about that. They do see extravagance too, as they go without. They ask why people are not content in such places that have "everything," and worse, why they think that they deserve everything, and worse yet, why they can't be human enough to share a little, or even sacrifice some extravagance for those who are struggling. They point an accusing finger at the Church--and rightly so... (Deut. 15.7-11)
Our Lectionary readings for this week focus on widows, worship and the change of heart that moves us from being religiously right, to religiously sacrificial for others. The readings from St. Paul's story is that of his change of heart when God changes his perspective. Prior to this "revealing," he was comfortable in his piety, and in his striving within religious circles--excelling and having it all, working hard and enjoying the lavishness of his rewards. I imagine he felt justified and sinless to a degree because of his ability to strive and attain a particular religious stature.
Serious consideration and walking with Jesus will change that...
In our Lectionary story of Paul, we can view his words to mean that his "conversion" came from God, and so he needn't submit to anyone else--he is independent in his "personal relationship with Christ." Truth be told, as we examine Paul's life, reconsider these words to be filled with exactly the opposite--a man not presuming to charge into the position of authority--a man who was learning slowly, to honor those around him, and above him--a man who was learning respect through an un-doing of his religiosity--a man finding humility, and a man finding himself in Christ.
In the story of Jesus and Elijah, returning sons from the dead, in our arrogance, we can "claim" the abilities to work miracles, focusing on the shallow part of these stories, while the true "miracle" is resting there underneath, with its beauty hidden by the glamour of the superficial. That beauty is the gut wrenching compassion poured out to these two widows, who without there son's, would be the most culturally vulnerable, and deprived. The miracle, or "power" is that of extraordinary compassion for those without a hope, those easily tossed aside and without a voice. These stories are full of beauty because they teach us that our religious striving is shallow; that true worship results in service to God through serving those who are helpless because they are important to God; that when we will, God's care is seen and understood; that the point is not our comfort and carefree life, but rather the losing of our life, finding Christ in each other's mundane.
When we find ourselves engaged like this, we become true representatives of the risen Christ, giving true hope without pretense or ulterior motive. We find ourselves on the sure ground of speaking God's words, and our life's purpose is changed to that of significance in true worship of the living God.
Is today's Christianity a matter of good business, the latest Christian fads, like the lastest books, self-help, methods, and movements; sophisticated Christian consumerism and entertainment; private groups, clicks, and affinity groups; filling our heads with information and theory? Is this where we find God? Is this where we walk with Jesus? Is this our prophetic voice?