Each and all of us hope for the best, try for the best, and sometimes even our best efforts, even though they are well intentioned, aren't the right solution in a situation. It's like in one of my top five favorite scenes from the Simpson's when Homer gets his blue haired wife Marge a Christmas present, a monogrammed bowling ball. A sweet gesture, with some good intention but the execution of the gift was wrong for two reasons. First, Marge doesn't bowl and second the ball was monogrammed with Homer's name upon it. Good intentioned? Yes. Well Executed? Not really. Self serving? Probably, but maybe not. It is muddled for reality sure. A lot of the times those things we do are often a 'hodge-podge' of self sacrificing, self serving, altruistic, and selfish. We humans are a curious mixed bag of saint and sinner, who attempt more often than we'd care to admit to exert a control over our world that isn't ours to have.
Our reading today from 2nd Samuel it has some kinship to that scene from the Simpsons. (Stay with me church) Our reading features David, one of the most tangled and captivating figures in all of the Scriptures, who after a long and circuitous series of events can now rest from battle.
He is THE king, he is now able to rest, he lives in resplendent luxury, but something vexes him. He dwells in sumptuous opulence but he is troubled that the Ark of the Covenant, that object imbued with power and awe and presence of God resides in a humble tent. This gives David sense of dissonance, “Why should I live in lavishness whilst the Ark of the Covenant is in a mere tent?”. So he decides to do something about it, he resolves to make a dwelling for God/The Ark that is at least as nice as his digs. He tells his court Prophet Nathan “Hey here's what I'm thinking of doing.” and Nathan responds promptly “Yes boss that sounds great, do it.” Is David's intention good? Probably, maybe
However, something happens that night for the Court Prophet Nathan is visited in a dream and given a glimpse/reminder of God's story, hope and promise for his people. God basically says “Nathan go and tell my servant David: You're cute, do you think this what I want. You’re going to build a ‘house’ for me to live in? Why, I haven’t lived in a ‘house’ from the time I brought the children of Israel up our of bondage in Egypt till now. All that time I’ve moved about with nothing but a tent. And in all my travels with Israel, did any hear me say to anyone “Why haven’t you built me a house of cedar?”
So Nathan get the fun job of telling THE King; David “Hey boss I got a word from the higher up, your big project it can't happen.” As we read through the text of this passage it is difficult to tell if the execution of this plan was self serving; from what we know about the character and characteristics of David is that he is a complicated individual with a strong ego and a desire to make a mark. This gift of a temple for God is marked by piety and probably some ego. God's word to Nathan for King David basically says this I AM GOD. YOU ARE NOT. I WILL NOT BE CONSTRAINED.
God flips the script, I mean it would be expected/normal for an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent deity to come back to David and say “Ya know what? Build me a fancy dwelling place, I am YHWH; you owe me this; I am sort of a big deal”
It is tempting for each of us to try and capture God, to put God in a box, to domesticate God, because it puts us in a safe place as captains of our fate. We each and all of us can be tempted to take God, who created us in God's image, and return the favor by doing the same. We are all probably at times a guilty of trying to sequester God so that God will fit in with our inclinations.
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob can not and will not be put into captivity. A boxed in God is a God who doesn't ask too much of their followers, it's easy to follow a God who only asks for occasional visits to their narrow little world.
God won't be captured, God won't be contained, God won't be made to be convalesced. For you see God is on move. God is amongst the people. God has things to do and won't be pleased to reside in any one place. God is on the move, and thank God for that.
A God constrained, and domesticated is timid and doesn't ask much of their followers.
A God on the move is wild and dangerous to and threatens the keepers of the status quo...
A God domesticated is a God that is far off and distant cold and uncaring.
A God on the move is responsive and reacting, and with the people....
A God pent up is a God that demands folks to come to them and would never deign seeking the wounded.
A God on the move is a God who seeks out and comes to the wounded....
Throughout the scriptures and history/witness of the church God is always flipping the script that we humans tend to draft for the world around us. God shows mercy when we want vengeance, God shows preference to those we would rather damn to the margins of society, God shows compassion upon those persons whom we would rather opt to subjugate under the weight of our own preconceived notions of worth.
This world we live in has always known divisions and hatreds, its always been fluent in parsimonious partisanship, this world is our home and it has always struggled to lean into love and away from hate.
It is into the midst of this reality that the God who will not be captured, who will never be boxed up and put away, who can not be constrained enters into in a way most unexpected.
In our reading from the Gospel of Luke , God once again proves that God can not and will not be boxed in, when God chooses Mary to be the bearer of the savior of the world. In choosing the BVM God goes off the script.
God chooses a nobody from backwater nowhere to be the "Theotokos," the bearer of God, the mother of God. God could have used anyone to start his plan but God goes off script and chooses Mary.
The blessed Mother gets a big piece of news when she is chosen. This news from an angel was a lot for Mary.
Mary knows her expected role. She is full well aware of who she is; And this should not be happening. She’s a she..., a teenager..., and from the wrong side of the tracks.
Gabriel tells her the big news; she’s going to be pregnant with a son, but not just any son, the Son of the Most High no less, from the lineage of David, you know the rock star of Israel.
In choosing to enter into the world as a created being, in choosing the place and time in which to be born, in choosing the person to come into being through, God acts intentionally and violates the notions of how people perceive that a deity is supposed to act and sets forth a new reality, the Kingdom of God as revealed most perfectly in Christ Jesus.
God is/will forge and God is/will craft a kingdom/a politic where the powerless of society are loved, where sinners are forgiven, where the grace and love of God is not exclusive to one type of people.
God is creating a new reality for all of creation to live into, one steeped not in nationality or race, not forged in politic or perceived notions of worth, not fabricated from exclusive evaluations of importance, but something that transcends any walls we are tempted to put up.
God unifies his creation in the person of Jesus Christ, when the creator becomes creation everything shifts, it is because of and in the person of Jesus Christ the grain of the universe is being realigned and we are moving away from death and towards life.
God will not be restrained as a far off all powerful deity, but instead will not be cornered in God's glory away from creation. God leaves the holy cul-de-sac and jumps into the neighborhood to bring redemption for all God's children. That's the news our world so deeply needs.
Our God is with us, our God is on the move, our God is embodied love reaching out towards all seeking to heal and redeem us.
So what does that mean for us church? It means we freed, we are loosed , we aren't trapped to live inside the bondage of preconceived notions of how the church is supposed to be. We have been set free because of and by the love and example of how God interacts with creation to be a people of love and purpose.
Because of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus there is literally nowhere that God has not been. God is, because of Jesus, our companion on the way. God, through Jesus, is working in an amongst us all to bring about new world inside the crumbling shell of the old.
God is kicking down doors that separate, God is knocking down walls that divide, God is stepping over boundaries that create categories of worthy and unworthy.
Jesus Christ our Lord and savior isn't a just quaint idea, he isn't just a good and wise sage, he is God incarnate.
He is embodied grace/forgiveness/opportunity to be made new and whole and different. It is in Jesus that we are confronted with ...who God is and who we are and it is with the companionship of Jesus we move the needle a bit closer towards who God has invited us to become.
God will strengthen you by the power of the Holy Ghost to proclaim and be gospel/ good news for a world that so deeply needs it. You have been liberated from the lies of a world hell bent on self destruction by the power of God to proclaim Jesus Christ in deed and word.
Go forth from this place preaching with your lives the love of God as revealed in the very person of Jesus Christ so that all people, all creeds, all colors, all around the world will have faith in Christ and follow his way.
For God, who has perfectly revealed God's self and character in the person of Jesus Christ, is with you.
God has called you, God's church, to step away from the well worn pathways of the way things are and into a new world of the way things ought to be.
You the church as disciples of Jesus Christ have been and are called/instructed/commanded/invited with an obligation to respond to be a new community of co-conspirators with God working to overthrow and heal the brokenness of this world.
we are a people of forgiveness/a people of inclusion/ a people who are reconciling divisions. We live together in community to practice becoming the people who God calls us to be for the sake of the world.
we are building a beautiful new world where all who confess Christ as Lord have a seat at the expanding banquet table of God's unbridled.
The world is hurting, what are we waiting for? We got this church, we got this. AMEN
~ Fr. Lance Schmitz, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.