Saturday, November 29, 2014

God's Pound of Flesh (Psalm 100)

"This is me, and I’m interested in you enough to show you my flaws with the hope that you may embrace me for all that I am, but, more important, all that I am not."

Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth.
     Serve the Lord with gladness;
          come before God with joyful songs.
Acknowledge that Adonai is God.
Adonai made us, and we are God's -
     We are God's people, the sheep of God's pasture.
Enter God's gates with thanksgiving and God's courts with praise.
     Give thanks to God and praise God's name.
For Adonai is good, and God's love is eternal;
     God's faithfulness endures through all generations.

                                                                                                 Psalm 100 (HCSB)

This psalm is a powerful invocation of trust in the goodness of God. We are the sheep of God’s pastures and God's steadfast love endures forever.  In the presence of such a God we have gladness and song. Out of such joy flows our thanksgiving and praise for the One who made us and claims us as beloved people.

Here before us is a summarization of the essence of a rightly aligned relationship with God. A relationship characterized by joy and gladness, thanksgiving and praise on our part and acceptance and love on the part of God. In these five short versus we plumb the depths of faith characterized not as obedience, but rather as joyful acknowledgment of the ground of our being: that we do not live in and unto ourselves, but rather we live in relationship to the One who is the channel of life and the bestower of compassion. This is the nature of faith, to enter into a caring and supportive relationship with the Sacred reality which sets at the center of our being. I applaud this psalm, its certainty and its boldness speak to the heart of what faith is all about. 

Yet, at the same time there is a warning, that if I failed to raise up, I would fail to honor both the psalm and you. The psalm is absolutely correct: God’s steadfast love endures. What the psalm doesn’t tell us is the pound of flesh this steadfast love requires of us. For there is no true relationship of acceptance and compassion that does not call for vulnerability from us. All relationships of depth make us susceptible to being wounded and hurt. 

As people of sexual and gender diversity we have spent much energy in protecting ourselves from a sex-negative society. We have toughened our souls to withstand the onslaught of homophobia and the violence - emotional or physical - it spawns. My concern is that the price of becoming invulnerable is the subjugation of all those who we fear will take away our resources and make us susceptible to being wounded and hurt.

This is the pound of flesh which God’s steadfast love requires of us: that we let go of this madness and frenzy action to be invulnerable and to open ourselves up to God and to God’s creation, all the while knowing the risk of being wounded and hurt. I cannot be christian and declare that the cross is only for Jesus, but not for me. 

The actor, Ashton Kutcher is quoted as saying: “Vulnerability … (is) the art of being uncalculated, the willingness to look foolish, the courage to say, ‘This is me, and I’m interested in you enough to show you my flaws with the hope that you may embrace me for all that I am, but, more important, all that I am not.’” 

The experience of this psalm, the experience of our faith, is that God’s steadfast love is infinite and inexhaustible and does embrace all that we are and all that we are not. No longer do we need to hide. No longer do we need to pretend. No longer do we need to hang on to baggage of ineptitude or shame. God loves us infinitely, not incrementally, but infinitely. 

A minister friend of mine, found himself at his first church where there was a young woman who was sleeping with all the men of the congregation. The church janitor was next on her list and the janitor went and talked to my friend about the predicament which was proving a very real temptation for him. My friend went and talked to the young woman, understanding there was a history of incestuous abuse behind her behavior. This was his advice to the woman. “The next time you're in bed, causing a married man to be unfaithful to his wife and family, and you’re in the sweaty throws of sex, I want you to remember that God loves you. God has always loved you and will continue to love you, no matter how many men you sleep with.”

Suffice it to say, the young woman stopped her more destructive behavior toward others. She stopped not because a minister talked to her. Rather, she stopped because she became vulnerable to God in all her flaws, in everything she was and with everything she was not. 

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