06 Sep Never. Alone.
I have been in church all my life. That means, among other things, that there are certain scriptures that I have heard, read and studied dozens, if not hundreds, of times. Yet one of the fun and significant aspects of scripture is that no matter how many times I come across a particular passage, there is always something new in it. It “speaks” to me in a different way. I hear or see something from a new vantage point. It comforts or confronts or teaches me in a way it hadn’t before. I’m sure one reason for this is that each time I come to scripture I am different than I was the last time. My circumstances have changed or I’m facing new challenges or maybe I’m simply a bit older. But, as a Christian, I also believe that the Word of God is active, not static, because it is animated by the Spirit of God. It is, in one sense of the word, “alive.”
In the past couple of days, I experienced this aliveness once again as I prepared for the fall kick-off of a Bible study group I facilitate once a month. The women of the church are embarking on a study entitled, God’s Promise: I Am with You. As I delved into the first lesson, I was struck anew by the incredible truth that the God who introduces himself to the ancient Israelites was (and is) a God who wants to be known and who wants to be in relationship with human beings. That truth alone is mind-boggling. For all the wonderful gifts, qualities, and potential we humans possess, we are simultaneously incredibly self-centered, arrogant, lustful and greedy, impatient, and fearful. We create beautiful facades to hide behind, but all the while we are riddled with self-doubt and insecurities that cause us to act in decidedly un-beautiful ways. It is not a “politically correct” word to use anymore, but “sin” is how the Bible describes this fallen state of affairs.
Yet, God wants to hang out with us anyway. We don’t have to clean up our act first. Or get our ducks in a row. Or do something “good” to try to deserve God’s notice. Right now, right here, exactly as we are God is eager for an intimate relationship with us. Wow.
What does a relationship with God entail? Many people assume it is all about “do’s and don’ts,” but that is SO far off the mark. Being in relationship with God is all about love—God’s love for us and us learning to love God back, as well as learning to love ourselves and one another. This is a life-long process, of course, which is why God’s promise to be with us always is so comforting. Again and again scripture tells us, “do not be afraid.” God will not desert us. God will not leave us to figure things out on our own, the best we can. God will not abandon us to our fears. Instead, God will walk with us, day-by-day and moment-by-moment. God’s gracious self-giving love will permeate our lives. God’s Spirit will empower us to make good and wise choices, to act in healthy ways that build up our common life together.
This month’s God’s Promise lesson ended by highlighting this four-fold promise from God: “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this place; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15) Jacob, to whom this promise is made, immediately responds by saying “Surely the Lord was in this place—and I did not know it.” And then, he begins to worship.
As we grasp the profound truth that the God of the universe loves us, is with us, and desires to share life with us, worship will be the only response that makes sense. In fact, we won’t be able to help it. We will worship in our comings and goings, in our work and in our parenting, with our time and with our money, in our pursuits and dreams and passions. We will worship as we serve our neighbors and care for our planet. We will worship in sickness and in health, when life seems like a bed of roses and when it feels like the thorns might get the best of us. Whether in season or out, we worship because God’s promise is true, eternally true: God is with us. And ultimately, that is all we need to know.
Yours for the Kingdom,