Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Our God

Yesterday, I said how detrimental I think it is that we have so personalized God. We believe in, hope in, and even love "my God," but many of us have forgotten "our God." That is why it is far more likely today for God to drive us apart than to bring us together.

It has to do with the story with which we are either engaged or not engaged. While Jesus hung on the cross, He cried out, My God, My God.... in what was both a very intimate and also very communal moment. Everyone who was watching or knew about the crucifixion was thinking the very same thing - my God, my Him. Because they were invested in and engaged in the story of Jesus. This was not just a man hanging on the cross; this was their hope. They were all hoping to see God, praying for the miraculous, longing for their hopes to be confirmed. They wanted to see that this was really Him, that all they had dared to believe in was really true. When Jesus uttered, My God, my God, it was permission for everyone else to reflect on their God. Everyone at once mumbling, whispering, wishing my God makes this the bigger story of our God.

Now imagine that those very words were not uttered by Jesus. Imagine instead that either of the thieves had cried out, my God, my God. What now? We're not invested in their story. We don't much care what happens to thieves. We don't imagine God's going to answer them, but if they really believed in God, they wouldn't be thieves, so who cares? We can easily write that off as personal faith because we're not engaged in the story of the thief.

We write off too many things as personal faith. What we need is our communal God back. What we need is our God.

So how do we do that? By getting back into the story. By engaging in and investing in the bigger story, the one we were created to tell.

Yesterday, I used the example of the storms, which was the catalyst for my starting to ponder some of this. When my God saved my house and my family from the wrath of nature, that creates a divide between believers. We don't know who my God is, but we know He doesn't look like the God that I have because I'm sitting here in a pile of rubble that used to be my life, wondering what just happened and where that tornado took my prayer. That raises big questions about my God, your God, our God. 

But think about this - I heard a report, and I'm not sure whether this was a local report or storm-wide, but hundreds of homes were destroyed, many schools and places of business were hit hard...but not one church. On a Sunday morning, when most people would be at church, severe weather devastated a community...and the people were safe in God's house. That's our God. Does it answer why we both leave church and one of us has a home to go to and another one doesn't? No. But it gives us a bigger story to get in with a God we can both agree upon. Now, that God is bringing us together instead of driving us apart.

You never see a character in Scripture who has the same stranglehold on God that we have. No one considers Him exclusively my God. Though the psalmist may cry out to my God, he also draws on the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He draws on the community's experience. He understands that God is, and I am God's. But God is not mine.

When Jesus taught His followers to pray, the prayer begins, Our Father. It never says, My Father. Because God was intended to be a communal experience.

That's why we have to live out the bigger stories, the ones we're all invested in. If we do that, I think we come together on sacred holy ground again and God gets to be who He intended to be - He is. And we are His.

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