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Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C

Isaiah 62:1-5 - link to NRSV text

For Zion's sake, I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch
– Isaiah 62:1

This verse came to mind for me the other day, when I read a question that a member of St. Martin's submitted for a column in the parish newsletter called "Ask Anything!":

People are always saying things like "God has a plan for us" and "everything happens for a reason" (like "God took Carl for a reason"). Is there a scriptural basis for saying things like this? How does the Church view life purpose?

Glad people are only asking the easy questions, right?  The problem of evil?  No problem! ;)

And that's where this question is headed.  If you say that God plans everything, then the next sensible question is "So does God plan genocides then?"  Ack.  (Is "ack?" a scholarly word?  Oh well.)

I think there's an important distinction to be made between a view of God as choreographer and of God as redeemer. God does have a plan for us as a people - "plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11). I don't believe, though, that God traces out every step we should take for us - whether I have raisin bran or wheat toast for breakfast, whether I take Route 29 or I-95 to work, or even necessarily whether I become a priest or a social worker. Many of the choices we make aren't choices between "in God's will" and "out of God's will," but are choices between two or more potentially good things. Almost always, any given choice will have things about it that are good and life-giving and other things about it that are unhelpful, so we've got good and bad coming no matter which option we take.

That's one of the reasons that the view of God as a choreographer who spells out every step we take doesn't work for me. Another reason, one that I talked about in my sermon from September 14th, is that some things - atrocities and tragedies - are rightly described as "senseless." Bad stuff happens, and I don't believe it was all choreographed. I don't believe in fate; I believe in redemption. The image that comes to mind for me most often when I think about this is of gravity. Gravity is a force so constant and so powerful that, although we can build things like airplanes to defy it for a while, eventually the plane will need to refuel and land. Even if it can refuel in midair, sooner or later the plane will wear out, and gravity will win out against anything on earth.

God's power to redeem is a little like gravity. I believe that evil exists, and pulls against God's redemption, but evil is finite and redemption is not. God's love for us and for the good world God created is so powerful and so constant that there is no power that can stand against it forever. "The universe arcs toward justice," as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, and no matter how rotten or senseless something is, God's redemption will keep working on it until healing and reconciliation and justice win out. "For Zion's sake, I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch," as our reading from Isaiah says. That's the wave we get to ride as we live into our Baptismal Covenant to "persevere in resisting evil" and "strive for justice and peace among all people" (BCP, pp. 4-5).

Thanks be to God!

January 12, 2004 in Epiphany, Isaiah, Prophets | Permalink

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Dylan's lectionary blog: Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C

« First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C | Main | Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C »

Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C

Isaiah 62:1-5 - link to NRSV text

For Zion's sake, I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch
– Isaiah 62:1

This verse came to mind for me the other day, when I read a question that a member of St. Martin's submitted for a column in the parish newsletter called "Ask Anything!":

People are always saying things like "God has a plan for us" and "everything happens for a reason" (like "God took Carl for a reason"). Is there a scriptural basis for saying things like this? How does the Church view life purpose?

Glad people are only asking the easy questions, right?  The problem of evil?  No problem! ;)

And that's where this question is headed.  If you say that God plans everything, then the next sensible question is "So does God plan genocides then?"  Ack.  (Is "ack?" a scholarly word?  Oh well.)

I think there's an important distinction to be made between a view of God as choreographer and of God as redeemer. God does have a plan for us as a people - "plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11). I don't believe, though, that God traces out every step we should take for us - whether I have raisin bran or wheat toast for breakfast, whether I take Route 29 or I-95 to work, or even necessarily whether I become a priest or a social worker. Many of the choices we make aren't choices between "in God's will" and "out of God's will," but are choices between two or more potentially good things. Almost always, any given choice will have things about it that are good and life-giving and other things about it that are unhelpful, so we've got good and bad coming no matter which option we take.

That's one of the reasons that the view of God as a choreographer who spells out every step we take doesn't work for me. Another reason, one that I talked about in my sermon from September 14th, is that some things - atrocities and tragedies - are rightly described as "senseless." Bad stuff happens, and I don't believe it was all choreographed. I don't believe in fate; I believe in redemption. The image that comes to mind for me most often when I think about this is of gravity. Gravity is a force so constant and so powerful that, although we can build things like airplanes to defy it for a while, eventually the plane will need to refuel and land. Even if it can refuel in midair, sooner or later the plane will wear out, and gravity will win out against anything on earth.

God's power to redeem is a little like gravity. I believe that evil exists, and pulls against God's redemption, but evil is finite and redemption is not. God's love for us and for the good world God created is so powerful and so constant that there is no power that can stand against it forever. "The universe arcs toward justice," as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, and no matter how rotten or senseless something is, God's redemption will keep working on it until healing and reconciliation and justice win out. "For Zion's sake, I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch," as our reading from Isaiah says. That's the wave we get to ride as we live into our Baptismal Covenant to "persevere in resisting evil" and "strive for justice and peace among all people" (BCP, pp. 4-5).

Thanks be to God!

January 12, 2004 in Epiphany, Isaiah, Prophets | Permalink

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