9.02.2010

15th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 18), Year C

Jeremiah 18:1-11 and Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
Philemon 1-21
Luke 14:25-33


Is God in charge of All Of This (this world, our daily lives, etc)?

How much control do we have over All Of This?

We don't know about you, but we go back and forth about what we think and what we hope the answer is to these questions.

Because there are times when the ends of the spectrum of possibilities could be comforting. For example, if God is completely in charge of things (read here No Free Will) we would all be able to blame EVERYTHING on God....suspicious moles to hurricanes could all be put on the virtual shoulders of God.

Or

If we are able to act and control things all on our own, then we could really be living out the American (Emersonian) Dream of Self Reliance. We would ultimately get exactly out of life that which we put in to it and that which we earn by the sweat of our own brows. The good and the bad would happen, and it would all be our responsibility-no one else to blame...no one to take the credit other than ourselves.

Our life experience and our reading of scripture tell us neither of these approaches are all that accurate.

This week we see God speaking to the people of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah. They are communicating through the image of a potter working at a potter's wheel. The potter was creating a vessel, it does not work out right, the potter breaks down the clay, and then he makes a new vessel. Now this analogy breaks down a bit because the clay does not have a choice in how it is misshapen in the first place or if it wants to try again. BUT God says to the people that since they have strayed (become a misshapen vessel), if they choose to turn from their evil God will reshape them in to God's people. The people have a choice in turning toward or away from God AND God will then exercise a choice to welcome or turn away from the people. It turns out there must be some sort of interactive relationship present here.

Psalm 139 is one of the greatest examples of a portrait portraying this intimate relationship. This does not speak too much to who is responsible for actions or how decisions are made, but it does point to a human who is ultimately aware of his/her connection to, and dependence on, God as his/her Creator.

In Paul's letter to Philemon we see Paul attempting to model the God / Human relationship. He is reaching out to a slave master named Philemon on behalf of a slave named Onesimus that he has befriended. This letter is modeling the same relationship we see set up in Jeremiah--Paul has chosen to put his faith in Philemon to ask for his help and then it is left up to Philemon to choose how he will respond. The other thing that is significant here is that Paul is appealing to Philemon's common faith in Jesus Christ as a base upon which they can build their relationship. It seems that in most relationships all sides play an important role in how things work out.

I the passage from the gospel of Luke we find Jesus sharing what seems to be some of his 'harshest' teachings. He is encouraging folks to think about themselves and what they might have to give up or sacrifice if they want to follow him. He uses the example of a builder estimating the cost of an entire building before beginning the project so he does not get halfway through and run out of money. Jesus is illustrating that we have a choice to begin something or not....and if we are not prepared to begin it, we should not!
In every situation, from individual relationships to cosmic relationships, all sides have some influence in how things get played out. Of course there are always consequences in all directions, but every time, we make our choice of how we will behave in the situation and then others get to make their choices.

There is a magnificent realization here. We are created for relationships. And we are created by relationships. And we create in relationship.

God,
Here I am.
Thank you for hearing,
responding,
reacting,
loving...
even when I don't like
the response.
Thanks for showing up.
Use me. Hear me.
And send me out
to hear and respond
to react and to love.
Amen.

© matt & laura norvell 2010 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world;
we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words.
May Grace & Peace be with you.

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