Pastoral Newsletter, July 29, 2016
– Christina Cosby
God is calling. Are you listening? We all know that God speaks to us through many venues. God places people in our lives to journey with us. God sent Jesus Christ into the world to teach us the ways God asks us to walk by faith with love. God spoke through humans long ago in the writing of stories we call the Bible. God is in the chaos of noise, and in the quiet silence.
Over the past weeks, life has become busy. For me, it has been full of ordination exams, mini trips, family, and friends. It is in weeks like this that I realize the busyness of life. In weeks like this, I could feel that sitting down to reflect upon God’s Word is yet another thing on the list. God shows up in the silent pauses for prayer — and God’s small spirit-like voice is more powerful than any of my busyness.
Our texts this week point toward the theme that God is calling — even in the midst of the busy summer months. In the midst of our busyness, we may wonder: is God here, is God calling, and (most importantly) am I listening? It is in the moments when we sit and listen, that we learn more about who God is.
Hosea 11:1-11 raises the theological question: What is God like? The text brilliantly moves from anger to compassion, as Hosea knows these emotions well. Hosea relates to God, just as many of us do, through personal experiences. Hosea sees Israel’s unfaithfulness to the covenant with God, because Hosea has experienced similar unfaithfulness through his marriage to Gomer. What is God like? Hosea in verses three through four says that God is like a parent who has raised children. The child does not always grow up to have the same love toward the parent that the parent desires. Nonetheless, the parent’s love does not fade away; it is unconditional. God, too, is not always happy with God’s people, but God’s love and compassion have the final word.
If Hosea does not express adequately the deep love God has for you and me, then maybe Psalm 107:1-9, 43 will convey the message clearly. This psalm, similar to Hosea, uses remembrance as hope for God’s faithfulness. Through remembering, one becomes thankful for all the blessings of life. Nonetheless, sometimes we continue to stray — to wander, as the psalm puts it. God still provides drink for the thirsty and food for the hungry. It is through these intense emotions that we find ourselves. One moment we cannot help but to rejoice in gratitude. The next moment, we are unsure of where to turn. This is the reason the psalms are brilliantly beautiful. They capture our feelings, they remind us, and most importantly they reassure us, that God’s steadfast love has the last word.
After being reminded, through our Old Testament text, that God’s love endures forever, Colossians 3:1-11 teaches us how to strive for things that are holy. In this text, we see a vertical axis between humanity and God, an axis that has shifted in Christianity over the past decades. However, I think this text teaches us how we can live more fully in God’s kingdom. Living a life in Christ is not easy — it takes practice. It requires an inward, as well as an outward, journey. The author of Colossians reminds us that following God takes energy — it is not the easy way out. We must strive to leave behind the things that come naturally to us: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desires, and greed. These things (which for us may be renamed as: anger, revenge, jealousy…) take away from our desire to be the light of Christ in the world. We must strive for the better (the things above). We must expend energy to be more like Christ. This way, the world around us can know the true steadfast love of God.
Luke 12:13-21 continues this theme. Jesus, in this passage, is asked about being a judge. To this, Jesus simply replies, “ I am not here to judge,” emphasizing his role of teacher by telling a parable. It is important to note the key themes of Luke that we have focused on over the past weeks — that is, love of neighbor. In the parable Jesus tells the man, the character Jesus describes does not use inclusive language, he simply says, “I want.” “I wonder.” “I will.” The “I” statements seem never-ending. It is here that Jesus points out the heart of the greedy man. This greed involves wealth, but it is not centered upon the man’s finances. It is centered on where his heart is. His heart remains with his love of self. Jesus, in the previous eleven chapters, has emphasized generosity and love of other. Now, when he is asked about judging, he simply says: “I am not here to judge.” However, he uses this time as a prime opportunity to remind his friend that he needs to take time to listen to his teachings.
God is calling you and me. God is reminding us that he loves us, despite our faults. God is providing hope through our memories. God is asking, “Will you take the time and energy to follow — rather than earthly ways?” God is asking. “Do you really focus on others?” God is calling. Are we listening?