Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Living WORD: Knock and the door will be opened

I love when the lectionary dwells in the likes of Hosea and Amos...such angst and teeth gnashing and condemnation.

And the risk is that we read through the readings assuming that the Gospel is corrective commentary on the Hebrew scripture. Not so. Really.

This week I am sitting with the well-known verses from Luke - everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Perhaps because this was the theme verse for the last VBS I ran, I tend to see this verse in a simplistic way that edges on prosperity gospel - the better you are, the more you will get.

But this week I am holding Jesus in tension with a couple of weeks of the prophets. It sure can feel like God is absent amidst the chaos that is our lives, the economy, the domestic agenda, raising teenagers, driving in rush hour, pondering the justice system...  Oh, yes, you probably get the point.  

But Jesus is reminding his followers in Luke's gospel to keep showing up even when it seems to be getting no response. And I feel like this is less about asking and more about being present, seeking to be in relationship with the living God.

As July ends, I am winding down a period of intentional discernment. No longer working for a church, I am seeking a clear understanding with God about what is next. This amidst some tumultuous family times has made for a deeply unsettling season.  I have been stewing.

Yesterday, I tuned into NPR for my drive to the seminary where I work. A local reporter did an in-depth piece about how babies get left in hot cars. The segment included a very poignant interview with a mother (who sounded amazingly average and responsible) who lost a child after forgetting to drop him off at daycare. The story was dramatic and included the sounds of the 9-1-1 call that was made when she realized 7.5 hours later what had happened.  

At about three points during the story, I thought to should turn his off. You do not need to listen to this. But I did not turn it off.  I felt heavier and heavier.  Like I was coated in the slick oil that drowns birds after an oil spill.

I have been reading Foer's novel Extremely Loud and Unbelievably Close. It is heavy, walking through generations of complication brought to a climax on 9/11. The main character references his depression as having "heavy boots."

Life is heavy and hard sometimes. I believe that the Israelites in exile knew that well...felt the weight of missteps, political upheaval, occupation, changes in the family structure. It must have felt like God was absent.

It does sometimes, doesn't it?

And life has proven time and again that even the most fervent prayers of request don't result in dreams fulfilled.

Our Father in Heaven, your name is Holy...
May your Kingdom break through on earth as in heaven.
Give us our daily bread and forgive our sins as we strive 
To forgive the sins of others.
And keep us from the time of trial.
The Kingdom, and the power and glory are Yours
Now and forever and ever.

But what if the point is showing up? Not so much asking for things but asking for relationship? What if the point is being God's? What if part of it is letting God be God too?

How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.

I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.

They shall go after the LORD, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west.

They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD.  (Hosea 11: 8-11)

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