From wilderness to renewalWhere's the Faith? Thursday, March 31st, 2016
Social Chaos: Where's the Faith?
As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!
Like many things in the Bible, whether you see it as literary or literal, we can glean wonderful truths.
There was the flood, 40 days of rain, 40 days on a floating zoo, 40 days of earth cleansing, 40 days of difficulty that will lead to a new beginning and new possibilities, ending with a rainbow promise of God’s everlasting love. Maybe that’s what 40 represents; that long periods of difficulty, disappointment, hardship or uncertainty can be followed by better days.
The days of trouble are a time to learn how resilient we are, a time to summon hope even when situations seem hopeless, a time to imagine the way things could improve, a time for looking for things to celebrate and enjoy, even when the sky seems to be falling, and a time of moving forward toward the experience of healing and renewal.
Moses spent 40 days with God on a mountain.
Moses led his community through a desert for 40 years.
We all have our desert times don’t we? As dry and desolate as they are, the promise of milk and honey keeps us moving forward, or sometimes two steps forward and one step back, but never giving up hope and never accepting that we deserve less than the promised land the journey is meant to help us find. But we have to go through the journey.
It took the spies 40 days to search out the Promised Land and come back with a report.
Goliath taunted the Israelite army for 40 days before David finally took him down.
Elijah spent 40 days on a mountain where he heard the divine voice in the silence.
And Jesus was in the desert for 40 days of temptation.
The number 40 makes the point that times of trial, or searching, or even aimless wandering can be a healing, growing experience where we can become stronger, more confident and we can come out on the other side better than we ever were before!
Jesus goes into the desert, and we see Jesus going through the experience that we all know for ourselves; a time of soul searching, learning, growing and finally emerging healthier, stronger and more confident than we were before.
Now, in this desert experience, Jesus is tempted. This temptation comes from the opposite of God. When we see cruelty, greed, selfishness, oppression, abuse we often name these as evil; the actions caused by wounded souls, hurting people, people who feel frightened or small or insignificant and so they lash out to destroy others so they can feel just a bit more important.
The Greek word for “devil” is “diabolos” which means “slanderous, accusing falsely.” Jesus is falsely accused and tempted by that voice of doubt. Many of us have experienced that voice of self-doubt being planted by a parent or a teacher or a religious tradition that found its way to the endless loop of the CD player in our minds.
I believe God is omnipresent. That being, there’s not a spot where God is not. Omnipresence means there can be no other presence. It is in God that we live and move and have our being, and I believe there is no evil in God.
So, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, is about to start his mission of affirming all people, of touching the untouchables and reaching out to include those who had been excluded; of empowering people so that they might experience dignity even in the midst of hardship; hope even when situations seem hopeless and self-esteem even when they are being constantly knocked down.
I like how theologian Dr. Watkins put it, “Jesus is about to embark on the soul-uplifting, world-changing, justice-seeking, barrier-breaking ministry and then the hateful voice of doubt pops up to say, ‘Who do you think you are to try something so huge?’”
And what does Jesus do? Jesus argues with that voice without ever suggesting that it could be right or that it had a right to invade his thoughts. He canceled out every lie with an affirmation of truth.
Oh, it’s so important to know the truth; and the truth will set you free! Fill your mind and your spirit with positive affirmations of who you are and whose you are.
Every time that voice came to defeat Jesus, he came back with “It is written …” and “It is said …” The word of truth, the word of empowerment, the word of healing can be more present in our hearts and in our mouths ready for us to speak it. Jesus shows us how to do it. He never said the desert experiences don’t happen, and he doesn’t say the negative voices never get in our heads and try to do damage, but he does show that we can overpower the negative messages with positive affirmations and a belief in our innate dignity and sacred value.
We are all on a journey, it even may be a desert experience for some, but Jesus shows us that there can be healing and renewal even in the desert.
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