It is good that things are looking a bit different in the sanctuary today…..I believe it fits nicely with our readings today, because each of the readings, I think, is inviting us to change…our thoughts, our perspectives, and how we approach the spiritual life.
Isaiah definitely puts King Ahaz to task. Though Ahaz is trying to honor the law of not testing God by asking for a messiah, Isaiah is telling him what are you so afraid of? You’re making the people around you weary as well as God. God’s gonna deliver the savior whether you ask or not….and this is how it’s gonna happen.
In Paul’s letter, Paul is letting the Jews know that all nations are being called to Christ….not just them….he’s asking them to stretch their definition of neighbor.
And then we come to Joseph, poor Joseph. Can you imagine what was running through his head when his betrothed came to him and said she was with child? Being human, I find it hard to believe that he readily accepted the fact the child she was carrying was put their spiritually. And all the while he was feeling all of those painful emotions….confusion, betrayal, hurt, anger, love for Mary, he had to make a decision about what to do. The Gospel tells us he was an upright person who didn’t want to bring disgrace to her, so he intended to divorce her quietly.
As a side note….. engagement/being betrothed, had a different connotation in Joseph’s time than it does now. To be engaged wasn’t a promise of a future contractual event, but rather a completed contract, with the wedding the final joining. Also, the word the translators use for “divorce” is apoleo….which is literally translated to set free. So, in thinking about what the “right” thing to do about this horrible situation, he used the law to it’s most compassionate end.
Very honorable, indeed, but God had another plan and shared it with him in a dream. It was in this unconscious state that God was able to communicate God’s will to Joseph.
I think many of us grew up in churches that focused more on what we needed to do to earn the graces of God and being a good Christian than on building a relationship with our Creator. We have become a people, just like Joseph, who when challenged with situations that cause worry and anxiety we struggle to find what God would want us to do. Now I’m not saying that’s a bad idea, these readings today just make me wonder if our history and our thoughts are causing us to ask the wrong questions.
In trying to live the spiritual life, I wonder what would happen if we stopped asking “How do I find God” and asked “How do I let God find Me?” or instead of asking “How am I to know God” ask “How can I let God know me?” and finally instead of asking “How am I to love God” we ask “How do I let God love me?”
A dear friend reminded me last night that when our thoughts are in the past or in the future, we are missing out on the present moment and all the grace God has for us right this minute. For as many of our wise ancestors have told us….only the present moment is real. Now this premise, admittedly, is one with which I struggle immensely. My brain and what it thinks it knows is quite loud and my ego encourages me to stay in the past or future, for that’s where it is fed.
But what if, what if this week, we changed our questions, changed our thoughts, and practiced living only in the present. What would our week be like if instead of trying to figure everything out, we just stopped and said “here I am Lord, find me, know me, love me”. I wonder if we just might not experience Emmanuel – God with us – in a new and profound way.