Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Monday, September 5, 2011

God the Innovator!

Most of us know, at least at some level, the stories of Samson, the biblical Judge.  The life of Sampson was really quite a mixed bag.  Some of the stories about him inspiring.  But some of the stories are actually kind of dark and confusing.

On the good side we have his miraculous birth, Samson as the pure, and amazing strong Nazarite.  We have Samson as person in whom the Spirit of God “stirred.”  And then here is the story of Samson killing a lion with his bare hands.

But there are also stories of foolish bets, and liaisons with prostitutes.   There is Samson killing 30 men for clothes so he could pay of a debt, and the horrific cycle of revenge and retribution that followed.  And there is the story of Delilah, where Sampson is seduced out of the secret of his strength, and defeated.

And we have that odd ender to the story where three thousand Philistines are gathered on the flat roof of a large building. And a blinded, enslaved, and ridiculed Samson is brought in for “entertainment.  As the story goes the blinded Samson, his hair grown back, is placed between two pillars that hold up the roof of the building. Samson flexes his muscles and cracks the pillars and the whole building comes crashing down, with three thousand Philistines dying in one horrendous moment.

The thing here is that God had a plan for Samson.  As an almost superhuman Nazarite Samson was going to rescue Israel and defeat the Philistine.  I am not sure what God’s original plan was for how that would happen…But I am pretty sure Plan A did not include a prostitute, a seductive woman, and fights over clothes.  Nor being blinded and enslaved.  I assume that God planned for Samson to be a leader, and with his strength and leadership deal with the Philistines in what we might call traditional ways.

But Samson, in I think many ways, blew “Plan A” to smithereens.  So there he was  -- Defeated.  Blind.  Enslaved.  Sinful.  He was a mess.  But, he still believed.  He still had a sense of God’s reality and presence.  And so he cried out to God and asked for God and God’s  power to come into his life “one more time.”  And God was ready with “Plan B”.  And Samson did defeat the Philistines.

I am thankful for that story. Often, we are in a period in our lives where we have kind of messed up God’s original plan.  If God has had a plan for us.  For our lives.  For our relationships.  Well we have made choices that have blown that plan apart. 

But what I see in the story of Samson is that God is the great innovator.  God will take us from where we are, and move us forward.  God will take us from where we are, and work his purposes out.

We may have made a mess of things
We may have done things the wrong way
We may have made a mess out of Plan A
But if we are open.  If we trust.  If we are willing.  If we ask!
God will pick us up from where we are, and another plan will emerge, an outcome God wants and intends will be there

There are two phrases that are the key to this passage.  One, “The Spirit of the Lord stirred in Samson and came upon him mightily.” Yes, that is how it is for all of us.  We have that Spirit stirring inside of us.  That is cool.  And it is key.  Paul notes, “the secret is this, Christ in us.”  This Spirit connection with God is the key to our life with God.

But the other line I like was the cry of Samson  “Lord, come to me one more time that I can do your will”
God knows what he wants for our lives.  God has, I think a plan.  We are masters at messing that plan up.  I doubt that Plan A almost never happens, at least the way it was intended.  But God will still be in us, and god will still work through us.   God is the great innovator, and will find a way to make his intention for our lives happen. God will find a way.  God will always find a way…All we have to do is ask, seek, be willing.

Sometimes he may just change the way we get to our destination.
I am convinced that sometimes he actually ends up changing destinations.
He may have had a plan.  But as he works with what we offer
He creates a new plan
A new destination
He finds a new way to use us
A new way for us to benefit the kingdom

Someone once talked about our lives being a sacred text
God writing our story
And kind of making it up as he goes
I like the idea of my life being a sacred text

But this is an awkward place to be,
Relying on God to be the innovator,  to lead us, each step of the way….

It is interesting to me that Samson found his Plan B  by praying.  I struggle with prayer.  I am really bad at it, to be honest.  Perhaps because I am so busy trying to orchestrate my own plan.  But I think prayer, or at least a conscious openness, a conscious focus of God through the Spirit, is how we help God implement Plan B, or C, or D, heck I may be on plan Z.

Anne Lamott says that the two best prayers she knows are “Help me, help me, help me”
And “Thank you, thank you thank you.”  I like that.  She knows a woman whose morning prayer is “whatever” and whose evening prayer is “Oh well”.  I like all of that.  Because it points to that need to  -- wherever we are--  be open to what God has in mind. 

It is time to be willing not willful
And go with god where God leads…
And accept that God can use even our mistakes

Faith work is not seeing it all in a glance, knowing where we are going… seeing into infinity
Faith work is one step at a time

To return to Anne Lamott, she tells of a time that her minister, an African American woman was talking about God’s direction.  She said that when she prays she only gets one spot of illumination.  One little circle of light into which she can step.  This minister, a Presbyterian by the way, then said, “We in our faith work, stumble along toward where we think’ we’re supposed to go, bungling along, and here is what’s so amazing… we end up getting exactly where we are supposed to be.

Another author put it another way.  He states that “the Gospel is able to accept that life is tragic, but then graciously add that we can survive and will even grow from this tragedy.”  He continues wit hthese words.  “It all depends on whether we are willing to see down as up; or as Jung put it, that “where you stumble and fall, there you find pure gold.  Think about the story of redemption. It was set in motion by the “transgression” of Adam and Eve, and then the whole world was redeemed, say Christians, by an act of violent murder! If God has not learned to draw straight with crooked lines, God is not going to be drawing very many lines at all. The beauty Judeo-Christian salvation history is that it refuses to deny the dark side of things, but forgives failure and integrates falling to achieve its promised wholeness…”

I don’t know what God had in mind for me originally.  Maybe he wanted me to be a teacher?  Or something totally different.  I am sure I have blown God’s Plan A to smithereens - No question about that!  But I believe that God is the great innovator, and that God will take me from wherever I am  - to where he wants me to be.  No matter what choices I have made, no matter what mistakes I have made
I believe God will take me   To something good.

Plan A? Plan B? Plan C? Plan Z?
If we are open, If we go with God
If we are open to God writing our story, open to our lives as sacred text
God will make something amazing and and wonderful happen

We never have to give up
We never have to believe that there is no next step
We can always believe in God
And know, and know, and know… that our future is in God’s hands
Thanks be to God, the great innovator

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