Not a Tame God
A whole generation has passed since God met with Moses on the mountain to give the people the 10 best ways to live. After breaking the covenant, renewing it, and wandering across the spiritual and physical desert for 40 years, Moses and the people who fled Egypt are gone. Joshua carried on. In his leadership and after their committing incredible violence, God brings the people to the land that was promised generations ago. For this moment, the people don’t have to worry about fighting or how they go on. In this particular moment they are safe and have all that they need.
It is the turning of the season. In these pivotal moments of our stories, the places where we know things are changing…we have a chance to think about what has been and what could be. On the cusp of transition, in order to step forward, we reflect. We remember our stories, we remember the people and places who shape us. Joshua reflects on what God has done.
It has made me stop for a moment, and think about what God has done, where God has been in my own life lately.
After several years of praying and searching, God has provided my husband with meaningful work that utilizes his gifts and fills him with life. Each day, God grants us safety, the health of our family, and food on our table. In these last few weeks which have been emotionally and physically exhausting, God has provided for me much-needed moments of rest, even if it’s just a couple hours in the wilderness that my soul craves for renewal. God has connected me with a spiritual director who grounds me and yet something about that grounding is also a challenge, an act of resistance. God has blessed me with a church family that cares enough to let me brag about my brilliant 1st grader and preach the bold Word that God has placed in my heart and on my tongue.
When I think on the story of +KINDRED, I think about how… when we needed our first dinner church meal; folks from Celebration Lutheran in Cypress drove into the heart of the city to take care of that for us. I think about how God through our friends in the community have invited us to join them in advocacy with the LGBTQ community, adding to the voices calling for the dignity of immigrants, and organizing for better justice and resources for the poor. I think about how God has enabled us through the generosity of many to keep food on these tables. I think about this building we occupy. This past week someone mentioned to me that, “I don’t think anyone realizes how much happens here.” I give thanks for a place of beauty to gather together – a place to keep us warm or cool, dry and safe – if only for an hour or two at a time. I give thanks for all the conversation that reveal deep relationship where we can let our guards down and be honest with one another about what is really going on in our lives.
I want to invite you to think about what God has done and where God has been for you…even just recently. God promises to be with all of us, so I know there’s some way in which God is present and active in your life. If you struggle to think of how or where that is, think about - Where have you experienced love? Joy? Generosity? Hope?
Go ahead. If you’re reading this on your screen take a few deep breaths, close your eyes, and take a moment to just be.
In remembrance of God’s work in our lives and in the world, what will we do? Joshua asks the people, in light of where they have been and where they are now, who will they serve and how they will live. The people are quick to respond with their devotion to God. But Joshua follows up, essentially inviting them to stop and really think about who God is, who it is that they want to serve and follow. Joshua reminds them that God isn’t a fluffy bunny, but is a God beyond their controlling. This reminds me of one of my favorite moments from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with its beautiful allegory of God. Toward the beginning, as the children are just discovering this incredible world, they ask about who Aslan is:
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
Toward the end, as they have grown to love this Aslan and wonder what life will be like now, Mr. Beaver tells them:
“He'll be coming and going" he had said. "One day you'll see him and another you won't. He doesn't like being tied down--and of course he has other countries to attend to. It's quite all right. He'll often drop in. Only you mustn't press him. He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”
As the people profess their commitment to God, Joshua essentially asks them, “are you sure?” They respond with an enthusiastic yes, which I believe they whole heartedly believe. But as for me and my house, I would say….
No, I’m not sure. I’m not sure I fully understand who God is or what God is up to. There are many days where I’m not sure I want to be a part of it, whatever it is. And yet, I look back at my story, at God’s story, at the ways in which they are intertwined and I can’t shake the sense that I’m tied to the ship anyway.
This covenant with God seems to be something that is about an ongoing renewal. Like with baptism, this isn’t just an event that happens once, but is an ongoing thing – we die and rise anew each day. The covenant is renewed with each communion as we are reminded and reconnected with who God is for us and in us. In Christ, God establishes the covenant again – one which points to the new and greater Joshua, Yeshua, Jesu, Jesus - who wins the day not with violence, but with non-violence, and grants us not just temporary rest but rest eternal in which we are witnesses to the full glory of God. Amen.