- Church of the Ascension
- January 13, 2014
- 5PM, 8AM, 10AM
2 Epiphany B January 13/14, 2018
Richard Dawkins, English scientist and atheist, has written, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” (The God Delusion )
From that it’s not hard to see why he would put signs on over 800 buses in England saying, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life.”
I mean, who would want a god like the one Dawkins wrote about?
Easier to just pretend there is no God at all.
Now, I can’t prove that God exists. Faith is trusting in what we cannot see.
But I have experienced God’s power in many ways—through some of you, in fact.
So I can say there is a God, but not the God that Dawkins wrote about. That God is a figment of imagination, a projection of the worst of human behaviors onto God.
I admit that I used to think that the God of the Old Testament, or what I prefer to call Hebrew Scriptures—I used to think that God was pretty terrible. Then, when Jesus came, everything changed, including God.
Now I believe that we have all those negative, frightening ideas about God because we think that God is like us. We make God in our image instead of living into the image of God that is our very being.
Today we have two stories about people who answered a call to be God’s image in the world.
Samuel grew up to be a great prophet of Israel. He was dedicated to God as a child by his mother, Hannah, and lived at the Temple with Eli, the priest.
Hannah sang a thanksgiving when Samuel was born, a song of God’s justice coming to fruition.
The song Mary sang, the Magnificat, echoes that of Hannah, so there is a connection between Samuel and Jesus, even though they lived centuries apart.
And Samuel’s, “Here am I” is also echoed in Mary’s response, “Here am I, a servant of the Lord.”
Can we make our response to God’s call as clear as those!
It helps if our idea of God, our experience of God, is not the one Dawkins writes about! It helps if we see in Jesus the forgiveness, compassion, love, peace, and joy that are God, and that God gives us when we say “Here am I.”
Our response to God’s call may take time. We may hear it three times or three hundred, before we recognize God’s voice.
We may dismiss the source of God’s call, as Nathanael does in the gospel.
Our call is to be God’s children, to follow Jesus so that others want to be God’s children.
God doesn’t always send the messengers we would choose. Sometimes it takes a while for us to realize that a friend or family member, a “regular person,” is the messenger God has sent to call us.
In the gospel we have today, John has filled his call story with many images from Scripture (Hebrew Scripture was the only Scripture then, of course) .
Daniel is there, with his depiction of “one like the Son of man” – a symbolic person who represents the whole nation. One name for Jesus.
Israel the nation is there in the fig tree, and the idea of peace and justice as “each one shall sit under their own fig tree.” And Israel the man is there as Jacob, who dreamed of angels and a ladder.
Jesus’ calling Nathanael an Israelite without deceit may also refer to Jacob, master of deceit.
Looking back to holy stories for inspiration, John then moves us forward, as the new disciples move from belief to revelation. To do this they must spend time with Jesus.
“Come and see” he invites them, and us. Come and get to know me.
When we do, we are ready for the next step in our journey with Jesus, living our call.
Our call from God, following Jesus, is to live for each other. To steep ourselves in God so that we have strength to be forgiving, compassionate, loving, peaceful and joyful.
This is what Paul means by “glorifying God in our bodies” – using our selves, our lives, for God and for each other.
We can do this in person in so many ways—some of you have welcomed me in ways that glorify God, and you probably didn’t even know it!
Being God’s children and following Jesus can be so easy—and it can be dangerous and difficult.
I have this desire to fly to the middle east and stand on the border between Israel and Palestine and say “Stop killing each other! War is idiocy!”
But I won’t do that—instead I’ll sign petitions and send money to help the cause of peace. That’s what I feel God is calling me to do now.
But tomorrow? Next year?
God calls each of us to be aware of what’s going on in the world, and to “come and see.”
First we are called to “come and see” the God we find here in worship, and be strengthened and sent out to be God’s image in the world—and image that brings peace, joy, mercy, compassion, hope—all God’s grace.
We are asked to “come and see” when a teacher is forcibly removed by police for asking a simple question. We are called to “come and see” the devastation from the hurricane in Puerto Rico and the VI. We are called to “come and see” the results of the fire storms and mud slides in California.
We are called to “come and see” in the terrible refugee camps in Lebanon, and elsewhere.
We are called to “come and see” in Paris, in Brussels, in Providence and Central Falls and wherever there are people and situations with need.
We are called to “come and see” and then listen for how God might use us to show and share all the grace that God shows and shares with us.
We are called, like Samuel and Mary and those first disciples, called to say “Here am I” and “send me.”
As we listen, and respond and learn what God is calling us to do and be, we are filled with the grace to do it. When we live this way we will have no doubt about God’s reality and God’s power in our lives.
As we become and share the image of God, no one will question God’s existence, and, as Dawkins invites us, we will all stop worrying and get on with our lives. Our God-filled lives.