2 Sun Lent Yr B (2018)
Ss. Peter & Paul - Danville
Have we tried to tame God’s voice?
Someone once characterized the 70’s and 80’s in the Church as the era of “Buddy Jesus.” Jesus was our friend, our pal, our good buddy who just wanted to hang out with us. Jesus as the bobble head doll with a big goofy smile just bouncing along with us down the road of life, nodding yes to whatever we thought, said or did. God made in our image, not the other way around.
We needed some of that. Coming out of the two centuries where God seemed to be a big ole meanine sitting up on the clouds far away from us, shouting down rules and obligations and threatening to pulverize us into eternal damnation if we didn’t “pray, pay and obey” like good little minions. It didn’t matter if we knew the Latin or what it meant – we were just supposed to put our butts in the seats and pretend to be involved while the priest did his thing. Say a rosary (or four) every day, put some money in the plate, eat fish on Friday, and do what you’re told. For many, faith had become empty and dry. Helping us remember that God loves us, that Jesus does want to be our friend – to share an intimate relationship with each one of us – to teach us to love and be loved, and to step into a life of freedom: that was needed, it was important…but perhaps it went too far. “Buddy Jesus” went too far…because we can never pretend that Jesus is only our buddy, only our pal, we can never pretend that Jesus just nods along with whatever it is we want to say or do or be. He is our friend – but not only our friend, He is also our Lord. And like a good friend, like a real friend, he also exhorts, rebukes, and challenges. I think we’ve tried to tame the voice of God by remaking Him in our own image…
Scripture tells us about the voice of God, the lamb and the lion. “Neither do I condemn you” in the same breath as “go and sin no more.” “Upon this rock I shall build my Church” just before “Get thee behind me, Satan.” The wounded lamb, “Could you not wait with me for one hour?” and the roaring Lion, “You brood of vipers, how can you speak good things when you are evil.” God’s voice loves tenderly and challenges, rebukes, corrects, exhorts…and sometimes asks us to let go of what is most precious to us.
There’s a pattern to the Great Adventures we read in Sacred Scripture. God speaks, and if we are listening and paying attention, He asks us to do the impossible, sometimes to sacrifice what is most precious to us…to jump off a cliff with and for Him. And if we become willing – really willing – He gives us more than we can ever imagine.
God speaks. “God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, ‘Abraham.’” That’s the beginning of all the best stories in sacred scripture, isn’t it? God saw that people had become hard-hearted and turned away from Him, so He said, “Noah – go build an ark.” In the year of King Uziah’s death, Isaiah saw a vision of heaven…and he heard God say, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” God called to Moses from the burning bush and said, “Moses! Moses!” Paul was riding along the road to Damascus…and because he was the stubborn sort, God knocked him off his horse and said, “Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?” Over and over again, this pattern is repeated in Sacred Scripture – God speaks, He calls to us in the middle of our ordinary moments, trying to get our attention. Far from just nodding down whatever direction we’re traveling, God snaps His fingers, tries to get our attention, calls our name, interrupts what we’re doing…
…the trick is…whether or not we’re paying attention, whether we’re willing to be interrupted, have our focus redirected…whether we’re willing to hear God call. “God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, ‘Abraham.’ ‘Here am I,’ Abraham replied.” God called Isaiah saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” “I will go! Send me,” Isaiah said. See the pattern? God calls…what happens next depends on whether we’re paying attention, whether we’re willing to let ourselves be interrupted.
This isn’t for the faint of heart. If we’ll stop trying to tame the voice of God, we’ll realize that when He calls He’ll ask something of us. Something that will require sacrifice. Something that will sometimes require letting go of what we hold most dear. Abraham had to be willing to let go of his only son. Noah had to let go of his preconceived notions about how life and nature worked, but he did, and followed God’s instruction, and the human race was saved. Moses had to let go of his excuses and the life he’d made for himself. Peter had to let go of his nets. Paul had to let go of everything he thought he knew about God.
Do you see the pattern? The pattern to every Great Adventure with God? God speaks, and if we are really listening and paying attention, He asks us to do the impossible, to sacrifice what is most precious to us…to jump off a cliff with and for Him. And if we become willing – really willing – He gives us more than we can ever imagine. He blessed Abraham with decedents beyond all telling. He rescued Israel from Egypt and gave them a land flowing with milk and honey. Peter lead the early Church, Paul spread the message to all the corners of the world. Just think…just imagine what God is trying to do in and through your life if you would just hear Him call your name, and let go and leap…
Lent is a season of listening and letting go. Our practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help us look up from the menagerie of our own lives to be in a place to listen for God…to let ourselves be interrupted by him. Lent is a season of listening…and letting go. Our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is practice in letting go of the things that capture our attention so that we’re free to leap in whatever direction God is calling.
…and He is calling, friend. You – yes – you – God is calling you. Do you hear it, or have you tried to tame His voice? What is God asking you to let go of; what is God asking you to entrust to His care rather than your own? Where is God asking you to go; how is He asking you to leap? God is asking you to leap – jump in faith – to listen, let go, and leap. Listen. Let go. And leap. How ‘bout it?