The readings today started with the Covenant between God and Abraham (Genesis 15: 1-6; 12-18) included 9 verses in Psalm 22 (23-31) and ended with Paul writing about the righteousness of God in Romans 3:21-31.
Like many people I find the writings of Paul to be a little challenging and some of the language - like the words "righteousness, justified, redemption and atonement" to need interpretation for me. And so I found myself looking up the Romans passage in Eugene Peterson's "The Message" and it came to life for me. He writes: "The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become the Jesus-setting -things-right." And that idea - of a God who sets things right is so much more understandable to me as I consider this walk of faith, the idea of covenant and call.
Here are another other quotes from the Romans text in the Message:
"What we've learned is this: God does not respond to what we do, we respond to what God does."
And so as I look at Abraham - who is called by God - I see that what Abraham does is respond. He says yes to God's invitation. This is not about Abraham's goodness but about his response. Similarly, I have always believed that Mary gave birth to Jesus because she said YES - not because she was good and pure and innocent. The relationship with God is started by God and set right when we say yes. The text continues: "We've finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade."
What I know is that saying YES is just the beginning. Abraham is such a great example of the up and down journey with God. He doubted God's power and protection for years and was driven by pride and anxiety as he tried to pass his wife off as his sister and produced an "heir" with Hagar. He shows that letting God set the pace means sometimes we have to trust and wait longer than we want and other times we have to be ready in the moment to act. As I look back on my life I see so many times in which I have acted out of anxiety or pride and either moved impulsively too fast or failed to respond when I should have.
I found myself drawn this morning to spend some time with Richard Rohr's A Lever and a Place to Stand. He writes about the movement from "ego consciousness to soul awareness, from being driven to being drawn." I have had too much of "being driven" (by pride and anxiety!) and I have come to learn the difference of being drawn into something by God's inviting spirit. And my hope is that I can continue to recognize that mysterious movement that brings life to me and others.
.The message for me this morning is that our God is righteous - setting things right. Paul writes: "God sets right all who welcome his action and enter into it." And his action is love and grace and mercy. There is the abundant life for us as we accept God's love, grace and mercy and find healing.
There is a peaceful and fulfilling life as we allow God to set the pace for us - so that we might be used by God to set things right.
"We are just the reeds, the instruments, the flutes of God, who allow ourselves to be played." Richard Rohr
May the God of SURRENDER be with you, leading you gently beyond your fears and hesitations to the freeing surrender of love.
May you be unagraid to give to God all that concerns you, frightens you, and causes you to be anxious.
May your loving surrender be a source of strength and encouragement to others who long to be free.
May the blessing of SURRENDER be upon you.