We are in this Together

A Poem followed by an Essay

Mercy We Resist 

Life is never a cool breeze in the garden of humanity

The voice of God walks silently in our midst

while our hearts long for shalom

Each day joy meets with sorrow

We hurt, we bleed, we love, we kill

- mercy we resist -

Someone must pay

We are too right to be wrong

too wrong to be right

We sale forgiveness rather than give it

- mercy we resist -

We build walls not knowing it is God on the other side

___________________

For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice;

(Hosea 6:6a) 

We are in this Together

(God and Humanity)

     The stories of Israel provide, for us as readers, a view on existence that reveals an understanding of God that is more often misunderstood than received. The mixture of God and creation (particularly the human creature) in these stories often leave us with more of a sense of God’s absence than God’s presence. This is so first, because of the overt violence in the stories and secondly because the stories take on a mythical guise with scenes of miraculous intervention, the likes of which none of us has seen.

     I think what we miss is the culpability of both God and humanity for the ongoing dilemmas of the human condition. Religion exonerates God for any culpability rather than recognizing the problematic reality of creating. I understand creation to be God’s best effort within the confining realities God would face in pursuit of a creature with whom God could interact in a meaningful way. God’s desire for relational communion with an other is at the beginning of all creation. Before God began, God was thinking about us.[1]

     Certainly, creation in all its complexity and wonder is a marvel that declares the weighty presence of the divine. The Hebrews recognized this in the vastness of the cosmos and in the resonating image of God existent in human beings; speech, insight, love, morality, creativity, relational commitment, mercy, redemption, are all indicators of godlikeness in the human family. All of creation is accomplished for the needs of the creature, both physical and existential.

     We are in this together, God’s culpability for our existence is displayed in Jesus the God Man on the cross. God is guilty of being merciful because God’s good desire for meaningful relationship with an other outside of God’s self required a reality absent of God. Yet, God is revealed in both creation and stories of God’s self-revelation.

We are responsible, under the watchfulness of God to build, if you will, paradise.[2]

     God’s desire for us is that we would hear his voice, a voice that walks in the garden of paradise in the evening breeze. Death is always in the midst of the garden of life and refusing God’s voice is an inevitable part of our reality, for we are learning to hear. Hearing the invisible God is a matter of relational communion as our eyes are opened to reality.

      The slaves from Egypt are at the mountain of God, they have heard God speak yet cannot continue to do so for they are convinced they will die. God affirms their fear, only because his desire for intimacy of Spirit with them is not possible; they cannot follow his simple ten commands.

These words the LORD spoke with a loud voice to your whole assembly at the mountain, out of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness,

and he added no more.

(Deuteronomy 5:22)

        Upon completion of the ten words, God was finished with writing law and ready to be near, to speak, to teach, but humanity is not ready to hear; and he added no more. So enters humanity’s need for religion, even the Levitical laws.

If only they had such a mind as this,

to fear me and to keep all my commandments always,

so that it might go well with them and with their children forever!

(Deuteronomy 5:29)

        This verse begins with a Hebrew idiom. The literal translation of if only is who will give. This idiom is the most emotive expression possible in the Hebrew language. That God is depicted as using this expression is revealing of a crucial insights into the meaning of this story. God’s desire is for us to hear God’s voice, yet if we do not live with a continual conscious fear of hurting God by not obeying, by not being true to the image of God within us then we also hurt ourselves.

30 Go say to them, ‘Return to your tents.’

31 But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you all the commandments, the statutes and the ordinances, that you shall teach them, so that they may do them in the land that I am giving them to possess.”

(Deuteronomy 5:30,31)

        The phrase ‘Return to your tents’ is an expression that means the leadership has either failed or been rejected, it also means each home is responsible for its imminent decisions as life goes forward. At verse 31 Moses is to become the recipient of an abundance of rules that are all a product of humanity’s failure to hear the Decalogue. In acquiescence to human need God will continue to instruct from a distance, through the establishment of Levitical religion. In this respect, God is distanced by humanity and hidden behind human need for religious practices.

     Humanity requires sacrificial victims; God does not. This thought is a constant refrain from the prophets and the psalter; it is instructive to us. Sacrificial religion contains humanity’s violent rejection of God within limits. Humanity’s rejection of God is self-inflicted violence that escalates if not confined.

    Religion has viewed the death of Jesus as a needed sacrifice rather than an act of love. John 3:16 counters this view and presents the death of Jesus as an act of love. In his love for humanity God allows the incarnate Lord to be killed by humanity’s powers, specifically the governmental, the religious and the crowd.

    We silence the voice of God in the earth everyday and innocent persons become victims to our systems of government, religion and popular opinion. We sacrifice the poor to our military expenditures, and we sacrifice our children to our nationalism. In America the black persons of our nation have been sacrificed to our racism for centuries.

    We are in this together and God will join us if we will simply hear his voice. Jesus said his sheep hear his voice and will not follow another. Everyday God is speaking in the perennial ‘today if you will hear his voice’. The mercy of God endures forever!

Be merciful and bring God into the world. Look for mercy for there is God, in both your daily life and the scripture.

    The cost of delivering Israel from the Egyptians (in part) was that God participated in the killing of human beings on the night of the Passover. God’s self-revelation suffered this fact even though God did not use violence. In the ongoing revelation of God, God will let us kill the Lord but God will not kill us.

    We can bring God into the world. We are in this together. Everyday, leave the world a little better place than you found it. If you’re afraid, fear God for your fear will vanish in his love and divinity. Listen for that still small voice that speaks goodness into the world.

[1] This statement is consistent with Proverbs 8 and the presence of Lady Wisdom; a metaphor for the voice of the creature, ultimately revealed in Jesus.

[2] I am not proposing a kingdom now theology but working within the concept of now / not yet for the resurrection alone brings the culminating event that lifts humanity into the realm of God.