October 24, 2012

Get It?

God has blessed me with laughter
and all who get the news will laugh with me!
- Genesis 21

There’s just something funny about the Lord announcing to Sarah and Abraham, their 30-year AARP membership pins notwithstanding, that they will soon be parents to a child---the beginning of an impressive, promise-shaped family. Sarah looks at herself in the dim mirror, then down on her dresser at the fading retirement photo of Abe, and secretly snickers before the Lord.

Stuttering Moses gets the call to speak to Power. Empty-nest Hannah is promised a bouncing baby boy. Jonah, running from the Lord’s demand to love unlovely neighbors, gets a lesson on unmerited favor in the briny stomach of a fish. The Lord walks Ezekiel down to the Pile-o-Bones cemetery for a theological discussion about new life. Teenage Mary discovers via angel-gram that she will push salvation into the world. Let’s just say that Peter was not named “rock” because of his top-of-the-class IQ, yet the risen Jesus decides to build the church on him. And the guy the Holy Spirit conscripts to plant the seedlings of Jesus-shaped communities all around the Mediterranean basin? The same dude who, beforehand, quite drunk on his own religion, attempted to uproot the Easter movement before it spread like the kudzu he would later water.

The Bible is the best joke book going. 

For that matter, there’s something hilarious about the Lord co-opting a bored, depressed, and wayward teenager into the business of preaching the faith “once delivered to the saints.”

Sarah and Abe and Moses and Miriam and Hannah and Jonah and Mary and Peter and Paul: They are all waiting for the resurrection, laughing it up in the lobby. In that way, the gospel of Jesus is like a good joke. If someone has to stop snickering in order to explain it to you … Well, never mind. 

Says Paul: If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. - 2 Corinthians 4

I wonder, where is the Christ-shaped laughter in your testimony? What’s funny about the Father calling you “saint” by including you with the Son? What unlikely part of your pilgrimage will the Holy Spirit turn on its happy head?

(As you ponder all of that, would you mind going down to the Dollar General to pick up some baby diapers for Sarah and Abe? They need all the help they can get.)

October 3, 2012

Permissive God

God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and separated the light from the darkness.  And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.  - Genesis 1

I always imagined God physically engrossed in the hard work of creation, putting in long hours on the job, overalls covered in sticky chaos … the way my father looked at the end of every day, the summer he decided to take off a week from work to repaint the chipping exterior of our two-story home.  Work is, well … work.  No wonder God needed a break and a beer on Day Seven.  Or so I imagined.

In returning as a preacher to the first chapter of the Bible, paying attention to what few precious descriptors we are really given on the whole matter of producing a planet, I realized that, in fact, God sweats very little throughout the first work week.  (Some say “week,” others say “a million years.” I say tomāto, tomato.”)  In truth, in the text, God doesn’t really make all that much in making the world.

What God does do is speak.  It is apparently enough for God to say, surely with a tinge of delight, “Let there be _____.”  God has only to give permission for the world to exist and the summoned sphere cannot help but be.   Me, I can’t even get this chick “Siri” who supposedly lives in my smartphone to call my brother at work.  “I’m sorry Ralph, I don’t understand ‘Haul your mother a smirk.’” Geez.

Genesis 1 is less a proof text for an all-powerful god as it is a hymn of praise to One (in Three) whose very speech contains the seed for a million stars in the southwestern sky, gives permission for a thousand-and-one sunsets over Evangola beach.  God’s words do that sort of thing.  Should we be surprised when a little later, our older brother Jesus subdues a storm, sends some nefarious spirits into a pack of pigs, and invites a little dead girl to get up and get back to the business of living---all through the uttering of a few potent, permissive words.  (Luke 8)

Let there be Ralph.  Let there be Wayne.  Let there be Dan and Jan and Stan.  Let there be Debbie and Bob and Judah.  Let there be Walter, and Will, and Elaine.  Let there be you.  It would appear that the triune God has gladly given you permission to be here just about now.  In the words of the poet Mary Oliver,

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?