Who is Your God?
April 3, 2016, Exodus 12:11-13, Acts 4:32-35
I thought third week in January was really tough. On January 16, a Friday, John and I decided to visit our in-laws (William’s wife’s parents) in Minneapolis. That was the Friday when the temperature never got above zero. Halfway to the Twin cities, we realized that we had NO heat. We fiddled with the heater and managed to get some heat, but not much. Issue Number 1
Saturday night, I was parking the car in the hotel parking lot and backed into the rear end of a HUGE double cab truck and really messed up my back tail light. The truck was fine, not a scratch or anything, but I called my insurance company AND the police (who did nothing since we were on private property). Issue Number 2
On Wednesday, I was driving to choir when a young lady failed to stop at a stop sign on my right and I smashed into her. No one was hurt. Our airbags did not even deploy, but both cars were a mess. The police came, the cars were towed and I called my insurance agent again. Issue Number 3.
On Sunday morning at midnight I woke up in pain. Having felt this way before, I knew it would end by morning, but this time the pain got worse, and spread to my back. John woke up and straight away decided it was either a heart attack or my gall bladder and we needed to go to the emergency room right away. No heart attack, but my gall bladder was removed that afternoon. Issue Number 4
Sunday night I thought about the sequence of events a lot and decided that this was God telling me to pay attention and to stop thinking that I knew everything and sort out everyone’s problems on my own. Now I am not a particularly obstinate person (pause for laughter), but God must have thought I was. He had to knock me upside the head four times before He got my attention and I figured out that I needed to slow down and pay attention. The image in my head was God acting a bit like that V-8 ad you see on TV. “Hey, you got Me to take care of you, now pay attention.”
Aha, I thought, why don’t I use this experience as a topic for my April 3 sermon? And I wrote it in my head.
Then Moriah Munsch was killed in an accident eerily similar to mine but at a faster rate of speed. And two sisters – one from North High - died in a crash on Interstate 41. And one of my students emailed me she was going to missed class because her dog had died the night before. When she returned to class, I found out that the morning after her dog died, she discovered her sister minutes after her sister tried to commit suicide and had spent a week in the hospital hoping her sister would regain consciousness. And I thought that maybe I was being pretty shallow to think that God would stage my “accidents” just to get my attention. That model didn’t hold so well when put in the context of other events. And perhaps I should talk about the way life is disconnected from God on April 3 instead and we can’t possibly understand His motives or actions. But was that the right idea?
Could it be that at each time and in each place, each person perceives the God they need at that time in that place?
For some, God is vengeful and will wreak havoc on my enemies. The reading from Exodus depicts a portion of the Passover story – very appropriate since Passover started yesterday. In the Exodus story God brings down dreadful plagues on the Egyptians to show them that they need to let the Jews go into the desert. My image of this God is one with fiery eyes and a terrible twist to his face, perhaps with lightning bolts clutched in His hand like the Roman god Zeus.
For some, God is kind and caring; actions which the Apostles are replicating in the passage from Acts. Jesus God is always offering a gentle helping hand to ease His people’s way through all trials.
For others, God is a Father, reprimanding when necessary, but never requiring anything that’s not “good for you;” a gentle God taking care of His angels from His home in heaven.
For still others, Jesus God is a king sitting on a throne and unapproachable or walking through Heaven robed in gold and silver and shining like the angels that startled Mary when she went to the tomb on the Easter morning.
In fact, for some Jesus is black; for some He their race or their ethnicity, but the truth is that the risen Christ dies for everyone. Christ is Risen (pause) to save everyone – believers AND non-believers. The believers act charitably not because Jesus requires it of us, but because we are grateful. God moves in all of us. He is God of all peoples in all places and each sees Him in the image that is most meaningful to them.
I cannot say how Carol Joubert perceives her God right now. I cannot say how the friends of the North High student who died in the accident perceive their God right now. I don’t know how the God looked who sat with my student in the hospital as she waited for her sister to wake up.
I do know two things: each of us sees Him in the image that is most meaningful to us; they see Him in the form they need and can relate to. And even if they don’t see Him with their physical eyes, even if they don’t see Him as an image in their minds, He is there beside them. Just like he is with us but we are only aware of His presence when we are paying attention.