Seven Questions of Faith ~ Where Is God?

Sunday’s Scripture: John 1:1-5, 14

I have a theory about the intended purpose of dogs wearing collars with tags, and more specifically, my intended purpose for my dogs wearing collars with tags.

We call them necklaces in the Miller house.

Collars with tags, or necklaces, are helpful if the pups meet a new human friend. The collars and tags share their names and give evidence that they are currently vaccinated.

What is my intended purpose for the pups wearing their necklaces? Necklaces deactivate a pup’s stealth mode. The tags that dangle off a collar do not make much noise, but they make enough noise to reveal their location, reveal their current activity level at that location, and reveal if that location is changing from one to another.

Samson and Tala…I know where you are! And that brings me great comfort.

Sometimes I would like to put a necklace on God so that without a shadow of a doubt I would know where God is. Always knowing where God is would – can you imagine it!? When the world gets loud through shouts of violence, cries of pain, and weapons of words or machines preach a blaring gospel full of hate, what I would give for a sensory assurance of God’s presence.

Just to hear God say, “My children! I am over here!”

And that is when I need to remember that in the midst of all the noise, God is still speaking. God is still making Godself known. In the loud moments the change must happen in me. I must focus my eyes and tune my ears to recognize God’s presence. Finding God’s presence in what at first may have appeared an unlikely place encourages my assurance of God’s presence to move from knowledge in my brain to beating confidence in my heart.

God’s presence is revealed through helpers, comforters, and providers. God’s presence is revealed through a cup of cool water, a bowl of steaming soup, a pair of new socks, and a kind, welcoming word. God’s presence is revealed in Scripture, song, and sacrament. God’s presence is revealed in you and me.

So in us and because of us, what sort of divine presence do our neighbors experience?

Victor Hugo penned in Les Miserables,”to love another person is to see the face of God.” Where is God? God is in each of us. God is capable and yearning to take up residence in each one of us so that we can become God’s echoes in the world. In this way when people wonder where God is or wander in search of God, we can lend our voices to saying “God is here. Allow me to show you how. And, more importantly, allow me to show you why.

Prayer: “Emmanuel, Emmanuel, his name is called Emmanuel. God with us, revealed in us, his name is called Emmanuel.”* Amen.

“Emmanuel, Emmanuel,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 204.

Jesus: The Early Years ~ Authentic Grit

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 3:21-22

Last Friday I treated myself to a movie.

In a movie theatre.

I know…this could cost a person one’s entire paycheck if he or she is not careful!

But my local theatre has a great “early bird” showing price – $4.50 for any show beginning before 2:30pm every day.

To that I say, “tweet tweet.”

I saw “Les Miserables.”  I thought it was spectacular.  The music – the sets – the costumes – the casting.  I laughed – I cried – I hummed along.  I even sang in a few instances…the theatre was rather empty…it was an 11am showing.

I have seen other installments of the film (one day I hope to see a stage production).  I have read Hugo’s work…and portions of it in French.  But each time I see it I am still not prepared for the graphic and dire straits in which the people of France find themselves.

I find the words from We Three Kings fitting, “sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying…”

Driven mad by hunger, sickness, anger, grief, and guilt.  Feeling completely alone in a sea of people.  Wanting for companionship – true companionship.  Craving the chance for a fresh start.

Aching for hope.

Mind, Jesus was not a contemporary of the 1832 June Rebellion of Paris.

But

as he presented himself for baptism at the banks of Jordan River, the community gathered around him may have felt a kindred heart with the characters crafted by Hugo.

The Gospel according the Luke tells us that the baptism of Jesus occurred with “all the people.”  And who were these people?  We know they weren’t all “high society.”  Some of them may have been.  But most of them – most of them were characters the likes of Les Mis.

Robert M. Brearley describes it this way, “Jesus presented himself for baptism as an act of solidarity with a nation and a world of sinners.  Jesus simply got in line with everyone who had been broken by the “wear and tear” of this selfish world and had all but given up on themselves and their God.  When the line of downtrodden and sin-sick people formed in hopes of new beginnings through a return to God, Jesus joined them.  At his baptism, he identified with the damaged and broken people who needed God.”*

If you are familiar with Les Mis you know that a sort of line was formed among the townspeople that were recruited for the rebellion.  Leaders were appointed and they spearheaded the revolt until they met their fates through musket fire and canon blasts.  But the people who sought change fought for it and remained resilient.  The closing scene of the film is an image of rebirth – the townspeople emerging from the wreckage, claiming the newness of their lives out from under the regime, claiming their agency, claiming their destiny.

Jesus joined a line of downtrodden folk seeking new life through healing waters.  That new life also sparked a rebellion of sorts.  Some wanted it to be more of a political rebellion – perhaps along the lines of Les Mis – but what occurred first was more an ideological and spiritual awakening and realignment.  Jesus was and continues to be the leader, the shepherd, of this movement.  His leadership led him to his death, which is our threshold to eternal life, our truth rebirth.

Jesus got in line with humanity.  He got in line with you and me.  And all our mess.  He got in line with Les Miserables The Miserables and in his baptism, suffering death, and resurrection proved to us his unyielding commitment.

Prayer: Holy God, when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan the heavens opened, the Spirit descended, and your voice affirmed your love in Jesus for the healing of the human race and all creation.  By water and word you lovingly invite us into this same life-giving mission.  May your Spirit, moving like a stream of water flowing from its source, work in us this day to realize your vision of a world made new in Christ, in whose name we pray.  Amen.**

* Quote from David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting On the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, Volume 1 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 240.

** Prayer from Kimberly Bracken Long, ed., Feasting On the Word Worship Companion: Liturgies for Year C (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), 46.