Sunday, January 03, 2010

God Is Always Dying!

When Jesus died everything the disciples believed about God died with him. For them, God was dead. Who the disciples had understood God to be was no more. A new understanding of God, a new God, had to come forth in their lives. With the resurrection appearances, the disciples began the work of forming a new understanding of God, of choosing a new God to serve. When the old God, the old understanding of God, dies, we must choose a new one to carry our lives forward, or we die with the old God. Enabling us to choose a new God in place of the old is the work of hermeneutics, the work of reinterpretation. Everything depends upon having the right spokespersons for God to help us find the way to the God that is God NOW.

History is weighed down with examples of tribes and civilizations that did not have such spokespersons, that did not survive the death of their god. When our understanding of God fails us, when the circumstances of our lives rule out the possibility of God as we have understood God to be, then that idea of God is dead and must be replaced with a new understanding of God for a new world. The Biblical image that applies here is Jesus’ teaching about new wine in old wineskins, and the idea expressed in the 21st chapter of Revelation: “The old has passed away, behold, the new has come!”

When K Misenheimer says, “God doesn’t have any grandchildren,” he is saying that God only has children and that the children’s God is not the God of their parents. Thelma Foster said, “Each generation must find its own way to God.” And the God it finds its way to is not the God of the previous generation. Each generation may pay lip-service to the God of the previous generation. Each generation may sing the old hymns and recite the old creeds, but their lives are carried forward by new gods which reflect the deepest values of that generation in spite of what they may profess and declare.

Think of God as the deepest, the highest, value, or system of values, that we are capable of imagining, perceiving, serving at any particular point in our lives—the value which sets our course and directs our living, for which, and toward which, in light of which, we live. God is the personification of the highest value of a person, or a nation, or a culture. We invest ourselves in the service of our highest value, or values. In this way, we invest God with our lives. Our lives are intertwined with our values, ARE our values. Our life is the reflection, the expression, of what we value most. When you look at us, at the lives we are living, you see our God even though we may say we believe in a different God, in the God of previous generations. Or say that we have gotten rid of the God of previous generations, and do not believe in God at all.

The catch is that we must consciously CHOOSE our values! We cannot let them be handed to us, be given to us, by the church of our experience or by the culture in which we live! We cannot embrace someone else’s values as our own and serve them without examination and reflection. In that case, we become the cult of an unknown, unrecognized, God, and lose our way in the service of a God unworthy of us.

We must not think we have dumped God just because the God of our ancestors (and the church of our experience) no longer carries our highest value. Some God does. And if we do not consciously give ourselves to the God that is worthy of us—if we do not consciously serve the values that we believe are to be revered with the highest esteem—if we do not consciously choose and serve the God whose claim we recognize and to whom we declare allegiance, we will drift into the service, and will live at the mercy, of lesser gods.

This is not some new brand of theology. Paul, in Philippians (3:19) talks about those “whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” All the rave these days, which is not unlike that of other days, is on wealth and prosperity and “creating the destiny of our dreams” (as if), and attracting the kind of life we find to be attractive. “What do you want?” is the operative question which directs our lives. Not, “What does God want?”, but “What do you want?” which elevates us to the position of God of our own lives, creating our own destiny and doing what we want. But we are not God. And the level of depression, and despair, and drug abuse, and addiction, and emptiness, and lost-ness, and meaninglessness running through our lives is testimony to the truth of our having chosen poorly “whom we will serve.” We pay a price for serving ourselves!

We cannot imagine a value beyond our desires and ambition. But, in living in light of what we want, we do not take into account the conflict of interests which torpedoes our lives. When what we want conflicts with what we also want, how do we determine what to do then? What do we want when our wants are mutually exclusive? Or when we get what we want and are not pleased? We flounder and cast about and do not know how to proceed. We sink into depression and cannot go on.

Our God has died again (as gods are wont to do when our lives do not go as we wish) and left us in the lurch. But, this god of our wants and wishes never had a chance. What we want turns out to be no god at all. Every god which is not worthy of our highest esteem always disappoints and disappears. And so, we must choose carefully the values, the God, we serve. For God is not mocked, we reap what we sew (Galatians 6:7), and bear the cost of the associations we keep.

And thus, I’m offering for your consideration, the God of the moment, the God of the here and now, because nothing is more important than the moment in which we live. When we do right by the moment, each moment, we create a foundation for the future that is built upon our service to what is right, one moment at a time. I am offering for your consideration the God of what needs to happen in the situation as it unfolds—beyond our desires and ambitions, beyond our advantage and interest, beyond our wants, wishes and happy fantasies. Here is the God that is worthy of the title, calling us to a destiny that has nothing to do with our dreams for ourselves, but was shaped for us before we were born by forces we cannot imagine, and which comes to life in the moment of our living, urging us to see and to do what needs to be done there and go where it leads, and see where it takes us.

The stakes are high here. Everything is on the line, riding on our understanding the importance of choosing values (like living aligned with our destiny) that engage us with Mystery and carry us into the hum-drum of the daily grind as though it is the stuff of myth and fable, because it is. Our task is the recovery of the sense of meaning and purpose of the moment and of our own life that lifts us above the emptiness of buying and selling, and provides us with confirmation of the special nature of our life and our place in the lives of others.

We have a calling, a vocation, a destiny! We are built, created, for a role in the salvation of the world! And, if that seems grandiose to you, what better antidote to the barrenness of the current wasteland of our souls? As it is, we have nothing but money to live for, nothing but safety and security to pin our hopes on. But ply us with luxury behind high walls and locked doors and it is not enough. We will drink ourselves to an early death or live a long miserable life around antidepressants and bridge games. We cannot give ourselves anything worthwhile to live for. All of our bright ideas come up short. Life, it turns out, is a gift from beyond!

We have a life to live that is waiting on us beyond all our ideas and dreams and wants and desires for life. We have a destiny to embrace and to serve. There is that which is right for us and for which we are right, and it may have nothing to do with what we want or with the life we have in mind for ourselves. If you are going to believe anything, believe you have a purpose beyond what you are capable of thinking up on your own!

In this, YOU are of value to God! YOU are God’s value! Your life is valuable beyond estimation when lived aligned with the destiny that is your calling, your vocation. And you cannot find your way there by yourself. But. We all know what is right for us, and what is wrong. And simply being open to what is right for us and being willing to do what is right for us puts us on the path to what is right for us.

What is right for us is what we are right for, what we are built for, cut out for. It may not be what we want for us. The difference between what is right for us and what we want for us is the fulcrum upon which our future rests. Turning away from what is right for us in favor of what we want for us puts us on a track to dissatisfaction, fragmentation, despair and death. What is right for us is often inconvenient, fearsome, difficult, and crazy. But it’s right for us. I'm not suggesting that you quit your day job and become a poet. I'm suggesting that you write poetry, if that's right for you. And I’m not suggesting that your destiny will reward you with wealth and splendor, but your life will be meaningful and interesting, and you can’t buy that with all the wealth in the world.

In taking up the path to our destiny, in doing what is right for us, we don't force anything but are open to everything. Openness finds a way. Being impatient with the process reflects a misunderstanding of the process. There is no hurry. There is no place to be by a certain time. Our destiny is more of a frame of mind, a perspective, a way of being, than it is a destination, an achievement, an accomplishment, a place. Our destiny is the path to who we are. It is who we are. There is no arrival point. We are always becoming who we are. Knowing and doing what is right for us is the way to integration, peace, wholeness, meaning, purpose, and life. And, believe it if you dare, it is the way to the salvation of the world.

No comments: