Thursday, February 18, 2021

Special Lenten '21 City Notes | Godspeed: The Path to Being Known, to Answering "Where are you?" with "Here I Am"


Living at Godspeed is not first about a pace of life, as though simply going slower will solve everything. This is a second birth into the childhood you never had, or once had but lost ... to discover what it means to be God's child again. This whole pilgrimage centers on a pivotal question and answer in Scripture, a question and answer that repeat themselves in every story, every song. These are God's searching question of "Where are you?" and our reluctant response of "Here I am." + Matt Canlis, Godspeed

I am frequently asked: "Where is God?" My experience is that the question is less the cry of a hardened skeptic and more the cry of a lost child.

It is also a question the Bible itself asks. In Psalm 42, a writer wrestling with grief lists among his troubles the many times people ask him, "Where is your God?" Starting in Genesis and moving dramatically all the way to the cross, God gives startling answers: "Here I AM – closer than you think, and in places you'd never expect."

Many people don't notice the first place God appears in Scripture, nor the first image God gives Himself. In Genesis chapter 1, before the creation of the world, the Holy Spirit is pictured like a brooding dove hovering over dark waters. Tohu-Wabohu is the Hebrew word not only for the dark formless waters but also for the nightmarish chaos every child and adult fears. Yet, despite the darkness, this is an image pregnant with hope. So, what was the Holy Spirit doing hovering here? The rest of Genesis unfolds the scandalous answer: The God of heaven was making human children.

My wife, Julie, in her book, A Theology of the Ordinary, explains that if you were growing up pagan in ancient Mesopotamia, your parents would tuck you in bed with stories to help you make sense of the world, the gods, and why you exist. When the Genesis account was written down (at first it was told orally), alternative pagan accounts of creation taught that humans existed because the gods needed slaves. This was the preferred bedtime story Pharaoh hoped his slaves would use to tuck in their children. But Hebrew parents told a different story. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And God made humans not because God was needy, but because God loved making children. God didn't need slaves. God wanted children. God wanted kidsSlaves can only obey or disobey. Children can love and be loved. Now rest, my child. And remember, tomorrow is the Sabbath!"

Is it really true that the God of the heavens made human children to walk the earth? That God made humans out of love, not out of necessity? In case this talk of God wanting children sounds too good to be true or too scandalous to believe, the exclamation mark on God's intention comes in Genesis 1:26-27: "Let us make mankind in our image ... " So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them." ... And in case someone doubts whether or not making human children in God's image was a good idea, verse 31 puts a second exclamation mark on God's joy in doing so: "God saw all that He had made, and it was very good." ... Genesis 1 reads like a new parent's journal entry in a baby book.

It wasn't the end of the story, but it was a great start. From the beginning, anyone reading Genesis would know that a loving God had made great kids and would provide for them abundantly, even if it cost Him. Years later, hovering over the waters of Mary's darkened womb, God's Spirit would again conceive a child who would shock the world. When people doubted his parentage, God's Spirit would again hover over the waters of the River Jordan, as God the Father declared the human Jesus to be His holy Son: "That's My boy! This is My Son, whom I love, and in whom I delight!" Few ears could hear it, much less believe. But Jesus, "the firstborn among many brothers and sisters" (Romans 8:29), heard those words for us so that by believing in Him, we might be born again.

What happens when you are born again? What do you become? A Christian, yes, but first a child. The path ahead with God is part pilgrimage and part pregnancy. The pregnancy is conceived in the divine desire for you to be born again as God's child.

The truth is that none of us can give a complete "Here I am" to God's searching question. Only Jesus can offer an adequate response on our behalf. He will do so from the places we avoid, the places we fear, the places we refuse to go. But Christ's "Here I AM" to the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit, will chart a course to forgiveness that frees us to enter in the glorious freedom of the children of God. ... Tonight, don't fall asleep a slave. Join the Genesis rebellion. Be born again God's child.

The content above is an excerpt from Backyard Pilgrim: Forty Days at Godspeed by Anglican priest Matt Canlis

Bonus: Here is a recent song to complement the content above:

We the Kingdom feat. Maverick City Music, 2020 A.D.

I was walking the wayside, lost on a lonely road.
I was chasing the high life, trying to satisfy my soul.
All the lies I believed in left me crying like the rain.
Then I saw lightning from Heaven, and I've never been the same ...

I'm going to climb a mountain, I'm going shout about it, 
I am a child of love!
I found a world of freedom, I found a friend in Jesus, 
I am a child of love!

I've felt the sting of the fire, but I saw You in the flames
Just when I thought it was over, You broke me out of the grave ... 

Nothing can change the way You love me,
Nothing can change the way ...
I belong to You! Yes I do!
Nothing can separate! 

Here are links to previous City Notes books:

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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