Ever have an experience where you just had clarity? Like a lightbulb went on and you 'got' it (or something new)?
I think this week was like that for many. What was this topic? gods, alters and perceptions. But it wasn't the topic that was the best part, it was the interaction with everyone as the discussion went on.
It started with the idea that if we look around us, if we didn't have churches or preconceived ideas about 'god' then how would we live? The truth is, we would struggle I think greatly. Why? Because if you were to honestly think about how much you can not control, you would begin to see the vastness and how small we are. You would realize how the world could at any moment change and you and I would be an after thought.
But more than that...we have to recognize that there are forces, gods or something in control of this blue floating ball we live on. So, what if you wanted these forces that exists to do something for you? Maybe you need your crops to grow, or maybe you need help physically because you don't function 'normal' like others. Who or what do you go to? And how would you tell them or ask them or give them something so they would even listen? How would you even know if they accepted whatever you offered?
It is always simple to say something like, "there is no god". But the truth is at best, we can say we don't 'believe' there is a god, but you can not possibly know if there is for sure or not. We have belief systems that we either make up or figure out over time based on what we deem important. So maybe science, or nature or some other thing then becomes our gods, our understanding of the universe. So what if that is not enough? What if science can't heal your crops or your cancer?
In human history, we see altars in many cultures. Places where the tribes or people would sacrifice things to their gods in hope they would accept them or grant them something. It was a system we created to get the gods or forces to see that we 'get' it. They are in control and we are not. This awareness of lack of control is something we all wrestle with. I think we all feel safe in control. We like it. We desire it. But I don't think we understand how little of it we actually have.
As I write this, There is a fire devastating the town of Fort McMurray Alberta. Despite the best efforts of many many firefighters and planes and water and helicopters .... the fire rages out of control. One day you are living safely making lighting choices at home depot and the next you are fleeing your home through a burning forest fire. There are things that are not in our control. And I for one will spend some time praying for those people and for the ones battling the fire.
But what am I asking for? Who am I asking to intervene? What do I have to give so that 'god' will do something?
Enter Abe. (Genesis 22) Abe, short for Abraham, wants a son. He and his wife make quite the mess trying to assert this and then God says to Sarai that she will have a child in her old age. She laughs. They have a boy, Issac. Then years later, God asks Abe to sacrifice his boy to him. Abe gets his gear, his boy and goes to make an altar.
Why is there no children's aid called? Simple. This was normal in that time. (If you have time, go research Molech) And I know there are people saying, "Why would god even ask this?" My opinion; he is showing Abe his heart and showing him his faith, but that is just my opinion. And that is not the point of the story. When Abe is about to take the knife to his only son. His son he desired and loved as an act of worship to this god, God stops him. Because God is not a god that needs this type of sacrifice. He is a God that provides. And he does here.
What is this saying? I think we create altars, God just wants us.
Maybe if I just prayed harder...
Maybe if I gave more...
Maybe if I just ....
This is the game we play with God. We try to think that we earn some sort of place in heaven by memorizing the love chapter in corinthians or pray 35 times a day. But the truth is that stuff is great for you, but not really what God is asking of us. In fact, often the more 'religious' stuff you do, you forget God entirely!
The point of this is simply to say that God is with us. He is with you. Even if you haven't gave to charity or if you haven't said 40 hail Mary's. He is with you when you make terrible choices and when you hide them in the dark. He is with you in the forest fires and the clean up to follow. He isn't asking us to perform some act on a altar to make him happy. He is asking us to become aware of him. He is asking us to see Jesus as more than a dude with a white robe and blue sash. That though Jesus, we have access to a father who listens, a father who understands and who came to be with us. He is asking us to see that Loving people without conditions, and loving people who don't love you is very close to his heart.
Literally the name they called Jesus was 'God with us'.
So. Do you believe he is with you? How differently would you live knowing that God is with you and that all he asks is for us to see that? And, how differently is the idea that there is no more need for altars and sacrifice, but us living as living sacrifices (living with the love of Christ in us and loving others like he would)?
I am seeing prayers work today. People filled with compassion opening up their homes to the families stranded by the fire. I am seeing a community forming around love and compassion trying to help others with no thought about making money or profit. I am seeing God in action. to me, this is what it means to be a people trying to extend Christ's love, practically meeting the needs of others without expecting some sort of payment in return. It is the act of pushing yourself aside and meeting the needs of others... my deepest prayer is that it would not take a fire like this ever again for this type of compassion, generosity and care to happen again.
May your kingdom come...
There is so much more to say on this and this is by no means complete, but for now...
the story continues...