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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Partners

Pr. 17, Yr. A
Exodus 3:1-15; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28
8/31/14
The Rev. Betsy Hooper-Rosebrook


     Seriously, what does God expect from humans? Peter, despite his best efforts, keeps getting it all wrong, and here Jesus is really taking him to task for his shortcomings and then going on with ridiculous demands about denying oneself and taking up a cross and losing one's life. Paul trots out a list of 30+ items detailing right behavior from wrong--anyone want the Cliff Notes version?--and yet this pillar of the faith elsewhere confesses he can't seem to do what's right and refrain from what's wrong, even when he wants to. Moses, by his own description in the next chapter of Exodus, says he's slow of speech and slow of tongue, and he certainly lacks confidence when God tags him. Plus what made God think that a good way to find a new leader was this weird burning bush trick? And that's just today's lessons; the bible has falls and floods, screw ups and sinners, denial and despair, and a whole lot of incompetent behavior. In our own lives, we have much the same experience, with our pain and sense of inadequacy or just plain insensitivity, our confusion and capacity to complicate things, our pride and our prejudices, our U-turns and wrong turns. Compared to God, we don't even live more than the blink of an eye. What on earth makes God think that humans are a wise choice for partners?
      Sure, we have our good days. Mary and Joseph say yes, Noah and Daniel remain faithful, midwives outwit a power hungry pharaoh, the beloved disciple stays nearby, and the Good Samaritan stops to help a person who reviles him. We befriend the lonely, care for the needy, support the bereaved, speak up for those who have been silenced, and strive to be peace-makers and justice-bearers. Those are all very good, but when I weigh them next to the aforementioned shortcomings, I'm still left wondering: why has God chosen us as partners in creation?
     Maybe it's because God is I Am Who I Am. God just is, and has been, and will be, and thus has the presence and patience to hang out with us. God doesn't need us to be good so that God will feel better or have a sense of personal fulfillment or for endorsement of the success of creation; God already contains all that and more within Godself. But God obviously wants interaction, wants relationship, wants reciprocal love; and, dare I suggest, also wants discovery? I imagine God saying, "I Am...and who are you?" with the same joyous wonder that we might experience looking at a young person and watching who she or he grows up to be. At the very heart of God's love shown to us in Jesus is an unconditional acceptance that also longs for us to be more ourselves, and encourages us to set down the parts of ourselves that separate us from God and to embrace who we are as God calls forth our being.
     God is still God whether we do well or totally goof up, whether we come through the fire or go up in flames. God has chosen to participate in a creation that has an element of unpredictability and that's messy...and humans are exhibit #1. When Moses says that he doesn't think God's plan to involve him is such a great idea, God doesn't try to convince Moses that he actually is qualified or that he shouldn't worry; instead, God tells Moses, "I will be with you." Not a vague presence in a vague way, but I--the God of your particular patriarchs and matriarchs--will be with you in the specific world you inhabit. I, the God of Peter and Paul, the God of Desmond and Rosa, the God of Michael and James, I will be with you…in Altadena and Ferguson and Montgomery and Soweto and Israel and Palestine and everywhere you go. Because I Am, you also shall be.
     When we're at our best--loving and prayerful and peaceful and hospitable and humble and all those good ways of being that Paul suggests--we may not need that assurance, but the very fact we're at our best suggests that somewhere deep within us we remember it. When we're at our worst or at our lowest, maybe knowing that I Am is with us, that God has chosen to delight in our company, that God is inviting us to be partners in the unfolding creation of the world, maybe knowing all that will help us get through to the next day or month or year. Maybe knowing all that will remind us of the holy ground on which we stand, all the time, because God is with us, all the time, and we will find ourselves able to respond with a calling to a holy life: “Here I am.”

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