1st Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 8: 7-18 and Psalm 65
When all hell is breaking loose around us, it is hard sometimes to remember that God is indeed good. Our earliest scriptures tell us that all of Creation is good – that all was indeed created for our enjoyment, our health, and our prosperity.
We have been given all that we need to live peacefully and without hardship on this beautiful planet Earth. But the message in the Deuteronomy reading is a clear warning that in order to live harmoniously and to prosper in this amazing gift of a homeland, we must learn to align ourselves spiritually with the Divine.
“Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God,” says the writer, reminding the Israelites of all the wonderous things God has done for them. He instructs them also to not ever imagine that they have created wealth and other evidence of prosperity and success without God’s help. Where do we think we get all our really good ideas? Who do we cry out to in anguish when things are not going right? And where does our comfort come from when we honestly declare to Spirit the terrible pain that is in our hearts?
Mostly we operate under the devastating illusion that we are alone in the world. We imagine that we are separate somehow, from each other, and from this world which is our ecosystem. And worst of all, we imagine that our puny little humanness is the greatest power in the universe!
The developed world is experiencing a crisis of identity and loss of purpose, I believe. The visible signs of this are the opioid crisis which has become a national emergency and a cultural disgrace, and the poverty and homelessness that afflict so many in this land of abundance and plenty.
Our people are medicating themselves to feel better. Why? Our consumer driven society provides no reason to live, except to get rich and buy things. If our young people do not succeed in this money-oriented culture, then they are added to the rolls of the poor and disenfranchised. This creates a deep soul emptiness from which most of us have no idea how to escape. Our schools fail our young people by not teaching them the lessons of our great teachers, writers, and philosophers, and putting way too much emphasis on preparing them to become cogs in a huge, impersonal, economic wheel to help others get rich. We don’t give them a star to steer by, an inspiration to follow, a purpose to shape their lives, and the enrichment and satisfaction of feeling useful and worthwhile, no matter what their level of ability. And our churches have failed us too, by clinging too tightly to outmoded ideas that perpetrate injustice and fail to include, thus ensuring that they will be and are becoming more and more irrelevant.
We need to be asking ourselves, what are we doing wrong? What advice do you have for us, Spirit God, to help us do better? The answers are out there. God speaks to us. We aren’t asking the right questions, and we don’t listen very well to the answers!
We are here to remember – and we are here to give thanks and praise to the Living God who is always with us.
Hymn #245 VU “Praise the Lord”
2nd Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
So why don’t we believe that God is with us, that God will lead us, that God is the source of our good fortune and our best ideas? I keep coming back to the idea that “we are a stubborn and a stiff-necked people” something like the Israelites in the desert who needed to be humbled by finding themselves completely at God’s good mercy to provide for their basic needs. There seems to be a kind of arrogance that is alive in all of us, a stubborn clinging to the idea that probably arises when we are about 2 years old: “I can do it myself!” We proudly call it “self-reliance” and we nurture and support it in our children as they grow.
This is not inherently a bad thing. We would not enjoy a generation of kids who couldn’t feed or dress themselves, or make a decision without consulting us. But I do wonder if this isn’t the beginning of the apparently universal problem of our inability to trust a Higher Power – to acknowledge both the limitations of our humanness, and the Source of all that supports us here on Earth.
The story of Jesus healing the lepers might throw some light on this issue. The story stresses the importance of two things: faith that something greater than our personal power might be able to help us, and gratitude or thankfulness as appropriate spiritual response to that assistance.
Jesus said to the leper who returned to give him thanks and to praise God: “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” The acceptance and gratitude for a power beyond our own humanness seems to be part of our healing journey. We are not separate from the presence and love of God. But when we imagine that we are, and cling stubbornly to that idea, then we are not well and will probably manifest some form of illness.
Jesus came to bring us healing and wholeness, and freedom from ignorance and stupidity. His message of God’s great love, forgiveness and guiding presence with us at all times is a message we must not forget. I believe that as church in this age it is our job to remember Jesus – and to never stop learning and practising the teachings.
Hymn # 358 VU “When Jesus the Healer”