The other day I was having a conversation with this year’s confirmation class about the nature of God. Things like; what does God look like. Is God tall or short, young or old, father or mother. For some reason we got really hung up on how old God was. Being around since the beginning of time suggests someone that is pretty old. But there was a suggestion that our idea of time might not apply in God’s case, so maybe God looked more like someone their age. After all there is that verse in scripture that says that 100,000 years is but a moment to God.
As you can imagine, these conversations can quickly get out of hand. So, after a few minutes we had to refocus on what did all of this mean to us individually, personally. Which brought us to the “I” version of John 3:16 … you know, the version that goes something like this … “God so loves me that He gave His only begotten Son so that… I might have eternal life.”
If we think about that for a moment, it is truly amazing. The idea that He loves us that much in spite of the fact that He knows everything abouts us …, “He [still] gave His only son …”. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he expands on this, he says “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.
I mean, we all have a lot of friends, we have people that we care about and people that care about us, but … with all respect … this is a different kind of love.
The more that the students talked, the more that they realized that they did not have enough information to decide what was the true nature of God. They were making judgements based on other people’s information. They were basing these answers on what others had told them. Not that they were questioning what they had heard but they wanted to be able to make these judgements for themselves. So, the new question was how they could do that. How could they research the true nature of God for themselves? The answer was easy, how do you find out the true nature of anyone? If you just met someone, or had known someone for a long time, and wanted to know them better all that you had to do was sit down and spend some time with them. The only way to really get to know someone is to talk with them. So, wouldn’t that work with God?
Here you have someone that has known you since the beginning of time, someone that has counted every hair on your head, someone that allowed His Son to be beaten, tortured, humiliated, and crucified for you so why not spend a little more time to get to know Him.
All three of today’s readings talk about that. What is so interesting about them is that they lay out three very different approaches. The first one with Moses is that he is all about the “doing”. Moses represents and manifests his relationship with God through his actions. As long as he has his arms raised God’s will is being performed. The problem, of course is that Moses is like 100 years old, and he can only keep his hands up for so long. So, they find a rock for him to sit on and two guys to help to hold up his arms … what a sight that must have been. But his relationship with God was through his actions.
In the second reading Paul talks about getting to know God through the sacred scriptures. He says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” My guess is that this would be the 70 AD version of Googling someone. But it makes sense, if you want to know more about someone, if you want to get to know someone, you should read about them. Listen to stories about them, learn about what they had to say. That way when it comes down to it you can emulate them and be “equipped for every good work.”
And finally, the Gospel offers the most direct way. If you want to get to know someone you have to talk with them. You have to sit down, spend some time and get to know that person. In the context of this discussion, you have to pray with God. And it doesn’t always have to be in the quite solitude of the church. It can be while you are hiking on a trail, sitting in a car, listening to the aspens. Today’s gospel begins by saying that we are to pray without becoming weary. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul says that we are to, “Pray without ceasing,” … ; “in everything give thanks: … Quench not the Spirit.”
Pray without ceasing, that means without stopping. That is like a really long time. No wonder today’s reading said that we should not get weary, without stopping could bring on a little bit of weary.
Saint Francis, the last statue on the left over there is credited with clarifying that “unceasing” thing just a bit. He is quoted as having said that we should do this “at all times”, but to use words “only when necessary”. So, we should pray through our actions, through our reactions, through our thoughts and through our intentions.
Our takeaway from today’s readings should be that we are to combine our raised arms, our scripture study and our constant prayers into one loving conversation with our God. I know, you are saying, “why didn’t he just say that at the beginning of his homily, we could have saved a lot of time.” The problem is that it is not as easy as it sounds.
The conversation started with a question of the nature of God, and we have come full circle to where He knows more about us than we know about Him. But let’s not forget that He has been at it a lot longer than we have.
The point is to start that conversation and to continue to broaden it. No matter how daunting, no matter how intimidating is this constant conversation with God, it is totally necessary and amazingly rewarding. The bottom line is that He wants for us to sit down and get to know Him.
You know, when we sit down and think about the true nature of God we really don’t have to wonder. God is not tall or short. God is not old or young. God is not even mother or father. The true nature of God is love. It always has been and always will be. And God wants more than anything to love us and be loved by us in return.
Some friends of mine have a wonderful tradition, at the end of a meeting they typically close with a prayer. And every once in a while, someone will start their prayer by saying three very simple words. Once those three words are spoken everyone knows what they mean, everyone knows what prayer it is, and everyone knows what comes next.
The three words are “Who Loves Us”
And everyone responds, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be they name …
LK 18:1- 8
Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.
He said, “There was a judge in a certain town
who neither feared God nor respected any human being.
And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,
‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’
For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,
‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me.'”
The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
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