Always Good to Read the Bible

16 Dec

I am glad to be back writing again.  I have had ‘sinus thing’ that has slowed me down and a couple of extra Christmas cores.  I hope you take time to read the Bible verse, even if you skip my commentary.  The text is such a wonderful wake up call to the craziness of our world that passes for Christmas celebrations these days, or should I say ‘Holiday celebrations.’

So, the letter from Paul continues in the 9th chapter and struggles with the ‘bad theology’ of an Almighty God.  The argument goes, if God created everything, then we can’t be responsible for anything that goes wrong with God’s creation.  These extreme black and white concepts miss the complexity and grayness of our experience.

Here Paul relies on the old dictate from Job that you can complain to God.

19 Are you going to object, “So how can God blame us for anything since he’s in charge of everything? If the big decisions are already made, what say do we have in it?”

20-33 Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?” Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right? Either or both happens to Jews, but it also happens to the other people. Hosea put it well:

I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies;
    I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved.
In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!”
    they’re calling you “God’s living children.”

Isaiah maintained this same emphasis:

If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered
    and the sum labeled “chosen of God,”
They’d be numbers still, not names;
    salvation comes by personal selection.
God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name.
    Arithmetic is not his focus.

Isaiah had looked ahead and spoken the truth:

If our powerful God
    had not provided us a legacy of living children,
We would have ended up like ghost towns,
    like Sodom and Gomorrah.

The quotes from Hosea and Isaiah take us from the inane, useless arguments to the personal relationship the The Divine Presence.

How can we sum this up? All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together:

Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion,
    a stone you can’t get around.
But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me,
    you’ll find me on the way, not in the way.

I read this again this morning, and had new words for my frustration with what the world and the retailers have done to Christmas.  Paul says if we give our lives to God, then God can straighten them out.  So, what was wrong with Israel?  They didn’t trust God, they took over.  Our celebration of Christ’s birth has been high-jacked.  I find it truly hard to find the sweetness and simplicity of the birth story in the midst of what passes for the celebrations in our culture.  We have taken over, rather then kneeling at the manger and thanking God for trusting us with an infant.

Yet, I know that the Divine in the midst of all of it, and it is my responsibility to quiet my spirit and worship God at the manger, not at the store.

Blessings and peace,  Mary

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