18 December 2006

Trusting a person not a process

Advent (December 18): Jeremiah 23.5-8 and Matthew 1.18-25
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory


The way that we go about trusting God is very different from the way our pagan neighbors go about trusting nature. For one thing we trust a person, Jesus Christ, and we trust his promises to us. Those who embrace all manner of secular or neo-pagan or merely materialistic spiritualities trust…what?...patterns of material behavior or repeatable lab tests or cycles of the stars and moon in their seasons? Surely you can see the sense in their ways? What is more convincing than the evidence of your eyes and eyes? Just look! And you will see that fall turns to winter turns to spring turns to summer and so on. Injections of medicines cure diseases. We’ve been to the moon using our observations of the stars and our gravitational math and thrust. But is it proper to say that we “trust” these? Do we invest hope in mathematics, medicines, astronomy? Do we trust things in themselves? Or do we just expect them to work as advertised? And then put our frustrations with failure on those who urged us to hope in things?

Emmanuel! God is with us! That’s faith. That’s trust. To hold that God is here with us, present with us and for us is trust. This means that we will pray and offer sacrifice because we are faithful people, trusting people, believing that the Lord has come and is coming. He is with us and coming again. Mary gave birth to him once under a star and now all of history and all of faith and prayer and honor and need pulls him to us, loving him into our lives moment by moment, growing his hands and feet and gospel tongue, giving him a voice that speaks Chinese, English, Spanish, Latin, Malay, Russian, Greek, Swahili, Aramaic, Navajo, and all the DOS codes! He will square dance, sing, play all instruments, excel at every X-Box game, read good poetry, romp around in the sandbox, drink good bourbon, love bread pudding and his mama; he will preach and teach and heal; and he will break us…again.

He will break us by demanding from us what he demanded from us before—Hear me, do as I say, I am Emmanuel, God with You, take up your cross, follow me, drink of my cup, be a slave who follows his master to his end. But do not fear: I am with you.

Jesus comes to us in Bethlehem under a star. Unrolling behind him are the books of the prophets. They bear his footprints. He rode those prophecies in Mary’s womb, treading each line, each syllable, reading every detail and knowing every time he did, he was reading his biography. From before Creation, the Son stood with the Father and knew. Emmanuel. God is with us. He is with us in our creation. In our re-creation. He is with us in our falling and in our getting back up. Jesus comes to us in Irving under another star. And out behind him are the books of the prophets, the witness of the apostles, the blood of the martyrs, our own words, deeds—spoken and left unspoken, done and undone.

Joseph believes b/c an angel comes to him in a dream. Why do we believe? Why do we trust this person, Jesus Christ? We are made to need God. We are made to love and to be loved. Joseph almost did the right thing by divorcing Mary. Then God called on him to do the Gospel Thing and love her instead. God soothed Joseph’s fear and said, in effect, I am with you. You have a mission, Joseph—care for Mary and your son, name him Jesus. This Joseph does and we honor him as Christ’s father.

The way that we go about trusting God is very different from the way our pagan neighbors go about trusting nature. We trust the person, Jesus Christ. We are made to love and when God is with us, we love perfectly. Trust will not move a cynical tongue. So, speak the Word today: Our Lord has come! And he is coming soon! Prepare the way of the Lord…

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