Sunday, July 14, 2019

Godly Perspective

July 14, 2091 – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Deuteronomy 30:10-14 / Psalm 69 / Colossians 1:15-20 / Luke 10:25-37
Godly Perspective

Part of my ministry—actually it’s a huge part of living a Christian faith—is listening to people. One thing I hear again and again is the struggle of personal faith.

There is a basic understanding of what we as Christians believe. We say the Creed every week, and that’s wonderful. Even more people have some familiarity with John 3:16—God so loved the world that gave his only begotten Son so that whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. Yet, there is an ongoing struggle: What does it means for me in my world?

Some people are always asking questions: Why? How? They tell me their mind never turns off. Sometimes they fight cynicism because the struggle seems so much bigger than any immediate answers. Other people deal with a seemingly endless assault of hard circumstances—relational, financial, physical, or emotional. Some people are continuously hit with all of these at the same time. So I hear painful questions: What is God trying to tell me? Why aren’t my prayers being answered? Does God care? Is God really there?!

All of today’s readings converge to give a perspective on this mindset. To be honest, they do not answer these questions directly. God’s way is not to give a detailed answer to our particular issues; instead (and I use this word again), God gives us a perspective that enables us to live in faith. And with that, I remind all of us that if we could “see” everything clearly, it would not be faith (Romans 8:24)—and as Scripture tells us, without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

We need godly perspective….

A good place to start is to remember that no one who struggles deeply with personal faith is alone. It is common to humanity to have critical questions which go to the core of one’s being. It is even more common to face circumstances that strike at the heart of life’s meaning and purpose (that is the effect of the original disobedience). If you have deep questions…. if you have been hit with suffocating circumstances…. you are not alone.

One way we know this is because Moses—and this was ca. 4000 years ago—was facing people who were looking for answers. It was near the end of their 40-year wilderness wanderings. The Israelites had gone through hard times. The first generation of the Exodus pilgrims had died and their children, now adults, wondered if the God who had given their parents those promises years before was going to do what he had said. Their thoughts had turned in on themselves and they were asking: “What do we need to do to get God’s attention?”

Moses gives a short answer: Listen to God and obey. But how do we listen to God? It’s as if Moses reads their minds (actually, God is speaking through Moses): You don’t have to go on a big pilgrimage. You don’t have to go anywhere. What God is saying is something very near to you…. There are mistaken ideas and insidious lies loose in our world that say God is too remote and that issues are too complicated. NO! God is here.

This has been powerfully presented to us in the Incarnation. When God took on a fully human form it was beyond what even Moses could have perceived. Jesus Christ is God with us. That is what St Paul tells the Colossians: Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God…. in him all things hold together.

The modern world has become so “scientific” that we don’t look beyond the (amazing) natural laws and explanations of how the universe works. But beyond and behind and underneath all the natural laws which we mistakingly think explains everything is the One who created it all. The sustaining presence of God is as close as the sunrise each day. God is as close as each beat of our hearts. God is in control. God is at work.

Sometimes we get so absorbed in our personal issues and problems that we lose perspective. Hold your open hand up to your nose. All you can see is the palm of your hand. Yet on the other side of your hand is the larger world. Your hand doesn’t make the world go away; it just blocks you from seeing it.

Our issues and problems can do that to us. Big questions and hard circumstances can come so close that they obliterate the larger reality from our perspective. God is here. God is in control. God is at work. Our loss of perspective doesn’t stop God.

So how do we keep perspective? That’s the Gospel. The man asked Jesus: What must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus answered with a question that takes us back to what Moses told the people: Heed the voice of the Lord your God and keep his commandments…. What does God command? Love.

We make this command difficult. We are the ones who, like the man in the Gospel story, want to raise complicating questions that focus on ourselves. Above and beyond all other questions and issues there is one way to be close to God: to love as he wants us to love.

You see, God is already close to us. We are immersed in God every second of every day. There is no place where he is not! Moses told the people that the command is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts. We confess the Creed with our mouths and are enlivened in baptism. So, if God is close to us, what is the problem?

It’s whether we truly want to be close to God! Beyond our questions…. beyond our issues…. even beyond hard circumstances and pain…. Do I want to be close to God above and beyond everything else?

If so, we open our hearts. Moses told the people, and the law scholar admitted to Jesus, all your heart. We open our hearts to love God. We open our hearts to love others. We open our hearts so that we can see beyond the hand in front of our face. Then we find that God is here, and his Name is Love. It is out of that godly perspective that we can live and love.

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