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Saturday, 1 June 2013

God as Boss

SERMON PREACHED AT THE CHURCH OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD
FRED’S PASS (NORTHERN TERRITORY)
PRDINARY SUNDAY 9 / SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST  
(2nd JUNE) 2013

 
 Readings:        1 Kings 18:20-39
                         Psalm 96
                         Galatians 1.1-12
                         Luke 7.1-10

Over the last couple of hundred of years, if not for ever, the absolute will of God has been a not altogether popular doctrine. I suggest possibly for ever, since we find Abraham having a few difficulties with God in Genesis 18, as he attempts to negotiate on behalf of the city of Sodom, but possibly that’s stretching my bow too far. Perhaps we should limit ourselves to the modern era, since the time when the earth was rolled up into a ball and our home became no more than an infinitely small bit-player in an infinitely big universe.

There is a paradox, there, for at one level, as the sun stopped circling the earth and the boundaries of creation spread further and further away from down-town Rome (or Jerusalem, depending on your slice of history), humans took less and less cognizance of the Psalmist’s “what is  a person, that you should be mindful of her.” Humanity, floating around an unimportant star in an insignificant galaxy in a spreading universe, placed itself at the centre, and flung the Creator out beyond the abyss, taking absolute will with him – or her. Humanity decided God was unimportant and decided to call the changes on the universe.
In other words, for at least three hundred years we have not been fussed with the idea “your will be done / on earth as it is done in heaven.” We’ve become less and less fussed with the idea of heaven, too, but that is in part a different story. We have gradually re-written the psalm to become “what is God, that we should be mindful of him, her it … ?”

Ahab had similar problems. His people had some allegiance to their God, but the gods of Baal were sexier, and they were kind of keen to have them, too. The God of Judaism and Christianity tends to be, as the scriptures put it, a jealous God, and wasn’t too fussed about sharing human hearts with bronze cows and orgiastic fertility gods. It’s probably not just since the modern era to be honest, but we too have done a fairly good job of flirting with orgiastic gods, trivializing the Creator (rather than seeing that, in an expanding universe, the creativity of God and the compassion of the God who cares for a falling sparrow is greater and greater to behold).
As the current Royal Commission will demonstrate, there have been far too many in our midst who have failed to believe in a God who might judge us by our actions, far too many who have forgotten to remember the stern words of Jesus about children and millstones. Far too many who have replaced God by putting themselves at the helm of the universe. This of course is to over-simplify, for readings of history tell us it was ever thus, but this is no excuse. We have fallen at the feet of Baal.

We have tended to forget about a God who created at the beginning of time and a God who judges either at the end of time or throughout time, depending on our comprehension of time (and mine is highly un-linear).  The Royal Commission that will shine its torch through our corridors – the corridors of the church in all its forms, will do us good. We can only weep and say sorry for the victims of abuse that have not necessarily been my victims or your victims but are all our victims. And when we hear of abuse it becomes nigh-on impossible to speak of the will of God, for to suggest it was the will of God that a child should suffer so at the hands of those who claim to be Christ-bearers is sick beyond words.  Where was the God who wills the centurion’s servant to be well?
For those who suffer, either at the hands of humans or at the hands of nature, I suspect we have no words, only the actions that pray God may speak louder than words about a healing, resurrecting God. I can only pray that those who suffered may judge us all kindly, for one day, in my theology, it is the victims who will on behalf of God judge the perpetrators. It is a solemn thought, and one I have long held, tempered only my equal and opposite belief that one day all, even the most evil of humans, might learn to surrender to the love and healing of the wounded Christ.

These, then, are just musings, not as it were an unpacking of our scriptures. But they are not unrelated. Ahab finds those who want to keep God as a convenience but their own hedonistic lifestyle – the attractions of Baal – and is not altogether kind to them. They have removed the question of a stern and judging God from the equation of their lives, and the implications of that choice are unattractive. We need to learn from them: God and the conscience he gives us may be slowly silenced in our lives but the risk of doing that is high. We can shut God up, killing those divine whispers in our ears, but we do so at great peril of our humanity. Jesus, like God, commands creation to obey his will, but we are not God.

How then does this leave us as we seek to stumble in the way of the Cross in 2013? It leaves us – or it should – refusing to play games with the gospel. We are called to be servant followers of Jesus, as he was and is a servant revealing of the heart of God, the servant king. We are called to find ways to express our love for God and for one another and for our neighbour in actions of service. God may be the one who heals by a simple word, but we need to know we are not God. Few of us have too many difficulties with this, until it comes to being servants of one another, or, more accurately, of Christ in one another. We prefer to control with our cheque books or our words, trying subdue God to our will, trying to reduce God the creator to the level of a good time Baalite god.
Instead we need to recall that it is God, not we, not you or I who is the boss, who commands the servant’s demons to release him, and raise him from the death bed. We are less glamorous, I suspect, and can only look for opportunities to serve one another – to serve and never abuse or exploit – as we seek to be the body of the Christ.

 TLBWY

 
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