God always helps believers toward what they want, toward their idea of how things ought to be. Never was a God who gave those devoted to that God things that were radically contrary to their idea of the good. You might say our idea of God serves our idea of what’s good. We serve the God who serves our wants and aspirations.
Of course, we will pay any price to have what we want. We will give up anything to have our idea of the good delivered to our doorstep, with the guarantee of its continuance through the long years of the far distant future. God can ask, and extract, anything of us, from us. But, we fully expect God to hold up God’s end of the bargain. Make no mistake about it, we give to get. It is an investment, not a gift. We do not give ourselves up for nothing.
Getting is the essential motive, the prime orientation, of those who “serve God.” We serve with an eye out for what’s in it for us. We serve with our best interest firmly in mind. All of the hoops we jump through, and they are considerable, have prosperity now, and heaven in the sweet by and by, as their payoff. Take prosperity now and heaven in the sweet by and by off the table, and watch the faithful leave in droves and herds.
But, with prosperity now and heaven in the sweet by and by off the table, something new enters the scene. Now, for the first time, there is the possibility of bringing God to life in the world for no reason. Or, better, for the pure joy of it. For the pure pleasure of bringing God to life in the world and seeing what happens. Now, for the first time, there is the possibility of our living to bring God to life in the world the way a fish swims, the way a dog wags its tail, because that is, we discover, what we do. Now, for the first time, there is the possibility of our being conscious of our unique capacity to imagine and align ourselves with the way of God with no purpose in mind beyond the experience of that affinity.
The experience and expression of the divine/human affinity is what life is all about. God comes to life in us, and through us in the world. And, there is nothing in that for us, beyond the experience of the experience itself. Or, to put it another way, what, do you think, is in it for God? What does God get out of the deal? As with one, so with the other.
The experience of life together with God is what it is “all about” for us; the experience of life together with us is what it is “all about” for God. What we create together is what it is “all about” period.
What did you think? What were you looking for? Are you disappointed? Were you hoping for more? A life of ease and infinite distraction, perhaps? Celebrity status? Servants and valets? Money in the bank and no worries to speak of? The world is filled with things to want. We never have it all, it seems. And, God waits, wondering if we will wake up and realize it isn’t about what we eat, or drink, or put on, or how well we live, but about seeking first, what Jesus called, the kingdom of God, and letting everything else fall into place as it will.
The idea of God waiting on us, not as in serving us; not as in waiting tables and taking our orders, and bringing us a damp cork to sniff and approve; but as in waiting for us to make up our minds; waiting for us to wake up; waiting for us to begin living in ways which align ourselves with the way of God and bring God to life in our lives, and in the world—this idea of God waiting FOR us is seminal and unique in the world of religion. Jesus lives his life in the service of the God who waits.
It came about, don’t you know, in the loss of everything he once believed. Oh, I know some of you think Jesus never changed his mind; never struggled to find his way forward; never thought about giving up. You don’t get to be who Jesus was without paying dearly for the clarity that is yours. Jesus worked out what he believed, as we all must, in the aftermath of the loss of everything he had been told to believe. Let me get specific with you. John the Baptist was arrested and beheaded. And nothing happened.
John the Baptist came preaching about the winnowing fork, and the threshing floor, and the chaff being burned in the fiery wrath of God. John the Baptist came preaching about how the wait was over. You know the wait I’m talking about. The wait of the people. Our wait. We’ve been waiting all these years for God to wake up and come save us and deliver us from the injustices of politics and life, and destroy our enemies, and clean up the mess, and institute the perfect world, where no one takes advantage of anyone and everyone is glad to do what they must to help everyone enjoy life and have a good time. It’s in all the literature. We’re always waiting on God, watching for God. We’re always thinking it can’t get any worse than this, and if God is ever going to come, it must be now. That’s what John the Baptist preached. Herod arrested him and executed him, which made things much worse, and nothing happened. If that isn’t going to stir God to action, what will? What will it take to get God going? What is God waiting on?
Ah, the question. What is God waiting on? That’s the question that puts the train of associations on a new track. Before, we had always associated The Mess of the world with the God who created the world and was thus responsible for The Mess, and would come in time to clean it up. What if God is waiting on us to clean it up? What if God is waiting on us to align ourselves with God, to incarnate God in the wonder of the divine/human affinity, and recreate the world “on the fly”? What if we are to work within the world, within The Mess, to change the world, to change The Mess, like yeast in the dough, like a seed in the earth? What if God is waiting on us? That’s the kind of question that could create a movement.
What happens when The Movement hits The Mess? What happens when The Mess hits back? The mix, the exchange, between Movement and Mess is an extemporaneous, improvisational dance in the moment of our living. There is no plan, no strategy, no scheme, no structure for instituting the Kingdom of God upon the earth. The Kingdom of God is not an institution, it is a Movement. It is episodic. It comes to life here in this way, and there in that way, and it rarely blooms in the same way twice. You cannot calculate the Kingdom of God. you live it. It becomes the living expression of the divine/human affinity. It is always a miracle of justice, compassion, and grace. And it can never happen, any more than Jesus can be raised from the dead. Which frees us wonderfully and graciously from having to figure out how it can happen and carefully plot what must be done to make it happen. It cannot happen! There is nothing to figure out! There is nothing to make happen! There is only the living expression of the divine/human affinity. There is only living in the service of grace, mercy, and peace; there is only doing justice and living with compassion for all things; and letting the outcome be the outcome.
What must we do? Who knows? Jesus didn’t have a plan. Jesus healed who was before him and said what was on his mind. That was Jesus’ plan. And it changed the world. The more we think about it, the more impossible it becomes. So, don’t think about it. Jesus never advises thinking about it. Jesus never tells us to figure it out. Jesus just says, “Come, follow me.” Jesus just tells us to take up the work of expressing, exhibiting, incarnating the divine/human affinity and letting the outcome be the outcome.
Of course, the church cannot be the church (as it ought to be the church) and pay the bills! Of course, you can’t do justice and make a profit! We don’t have a program! We have a movement! What must we do? Find the cracks! Plug the holes! Demand that the world do a better job of doing right by its citizens, of easing their burden and lightening their load!
What must we do? Become the right kind of company! Heal the sick! Raise the dead! Proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God! Live in ways that are aligned with the way of God! Live in ways that express, exhibit, incarnate and make real the divine/human affinity in each moment of our living! Take up the cause of the “widow and the orphan,” of the marginalized and ignored, of the outcast and the exiled—with the full understanding that “the harvest is plentiful, and the laborers are few,” and “the poor will be with you always,” and we will never get it done.
We will never clean up The Mess. We will never get rid of The Mess. And, when we think we must, we are thinking like the world we would transform. Here’s the thing. We have come here into this space for well over eight years now, and I have talked to you about the church of our experience, and how it needs to be changed, and what we are doing here to change it. Well. The world of our experience also needs to be changed. We are here to change the church and to change the world. And, we will never get it right. We will never run out of things to change, either about the church of our experience, or about the church we are endeavoring to become, or about the world of our experience, or about the world we are bringing into being. We are here to make the church as it ought to be, and to make the world as it ought to be, and we will never complete the task. So what? Do you understand the importance of doing what must be done, even though it won’t “bring in the kingdom”? It IS the kingdom! Do you understand that doing what must be done IS the kingdom?
It’s a Mess out there. And God is with us as a full partner in making things more like they ought to be than they are. It’s a Mess out there, and God is waiting on us, for us, to align ourselves and our lives with the way of God—to exhibit, and express, and incarnate the divine/human affinity in each moment of our living. It’s a Mess out there, and God is waiting on us, for us, to live in ways that change the church, that change the world. And, the question, of course, is: What are we waiting on?