Pentecost 12(RCL): He refuses to use the Crystal Ball
Hosea 1:2-10 and Psalm 85 , Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19), Luke 11:1-13
We are faced here with what would appear to be a redundancy....... if GOD knows the secrets of our hearts; if God follows us wherever we go and is aware of what we do and how we do it..... why do we have to bother to TALK to God? Why to we have to ASK for things? Why do we have to CONFESS things? After all, we are free and clear of our trespasses because, according to the writer to the church at Colossus ,"He nailed them to the cross". Everything sinful by everyone for all human time. One mighty long list, that.
Back to the original thought - if God 'knows it all', why do we have to pray, show respect, forgive, apologize, empathize or sympathize with others? If God knows it all, even that bad stuff, and we will be welcomed into everlasting bliss, no matter what we do, they why bother? I can confess that there was a time when I relied on that premise to get by, barrelling through life like a steamroller, oblivious of either obstacles ahed or the destruction left in my wake.
It took years before I could see that taking no responsibility and having no "feelings" for anyone else had left me a lonely, solitary, strangely angry and bitter person. Having rejected my 'predestined' occupation as someone who listens with the heart to other hearts, I was empty. The only things to fill the emptiness were to steal change, lie without remorse and display my raging inner anger: angry at my parents for putting me down and discouraging me; angry we were poor; angry at those with privilege; angry at being treated as mute and invisible; angry about being an object - one of 'them' - dehumanized and unrecognizable in a mob.
The irony was, of course, that I was painfully visible and loud and disruptive and had what could be described as a callus with a crack in it over my heart. I was labeled an underachieving trouble maker. These clinical labels, once applied, stick to you like no Super Glue can. They can also be repeated enough that you acutally believe that is that and things will never change.
God stepped in. I can't pinpoint the date. I can remember that it was at the end of my searching for a church to go to - and I was having discussions with the assistant rector. I made a confession.... and it all came pouring out: the longing, the fear, the lonely ache, the attempts at getting attention, the inappropriate behavior, the feeling of utter inadequacy in every section of my life. He listened long and hard. He then held out his hands and said 'when you're ready, take my hands in yours - I am putting my belief in you - and then begin to pray.' I thought that he was tired or lost his wits. Despite my reluctance, my guard was down, my heart had been opened, my spirit was lighter, the weight was off of my shoulders. I prayed clumsily, rambling and then became still. I perceived we had been enveloped in a mist of benediction. We sat still like that for what seemed like a very long time. He took his hands away for a second, then reached out and held mine. 'Let's use a familiar prayer '.... and began "Our Father..... ". It was a time of the radical feminist movement, of consciousness raising groups and strong reaction to male imagery. Besides all of my own parental issues, I joined in with "Father" and kept on going, with each word, with each image, the facade crumbled. There was an awakening and rebirth. By the end of the prayer and the session, the priest mentioned that I might be seeing things a bit differently now and that I may have dreams and may have to take more time making decisions (and that the decisions) may well be different. I changed. It took time. It took more time for the people around me to see that it wasn't 'just another act'. The delayed gratification was difficult to handle. Some days - even now - it is difficult to wait for people to make decisions and not attempt to thwart or accellerate their deliberations....well, we all have something to work on.
The flip side of the coin regarding God's insistance on our asking is...... that by doing this exercise we grow. If a parent, knowing what a toddler wants at the table from a grunt indulges in that habit, they are not helping the child acquire language stills by responding to a grunt or a thump on the table. If a child goes through life with training wheels on thier bike, how do they acquire better balance or motor skills? If I am to let my conscience be my guide, when I make a mistake it is my responsibility to apologize and make amends where appropriate. If I catch myself in a difficult place to explain the situation rather than brood; if I am being hurt I must confront with love the one hurting me. All of these things make me grow.
All of these things make EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US GROW. That's why it says ask and it shall be given to you and not 'think it and you will get it' or 'because I owe you or you deserve it and it shall be given to you'. What we have with our God must be a relationship- and that requires action and decision making on both parts. God will not use the Almighty Crystal Ball to foretell your future or to check in on whether you are on the right path. Nope. This path is built for 2 across and goes both ways. When we surrender our pride we gain compassion; when we listen to the heart of another, we strengthen empathy; when we hear someone is ill and respond with a card, a call, a visit, some chicken soup, an offer for a ride to a doctor's appointment, we strengthen our capacity for service. We have to ask, knock, search... and as long as there are others on this earthly journey who wish to live into their faith tradition that includes justice, mercy and kindness (and they all do) we will have fellow sojourners - some of whom may be the vehicle of God's answer to our prayers. THAT is how much the Holy Spirit will aid us when we ask. Amen and Amen
Copyright © 2007 K.L.Joanna Depue and DJ on http://www.geraniumfarm.org/