Your "God-box"

Where do you see God active in your life? It’s a question that might make your stomach drop or give you pause for thoughtful reflection. In my experience, most people believe that the answer to this question is “church”. That might be Sunday worship or it might be small group Bible studies or particularly, serving our neighbors at St. Francis Center, House of Hope or any community partner. It’s a way of saying that most people think that God is active, we see and know and experience God, in “churchy settings”. I get this—I mean, I’m a priest for crying out loud! And yet, most of our lives are lived outside of Sunday or an event connected explicitly with religion. This is no new thing. Jesus, from early on, has been challenging us to imagine faith as bigger than our religious box—Jesus pushes us beyond our “God-box”. This Sunday we’ll hear the story of Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem. As he overturns tables and drives out moneychangers, Jesus says something different in John’s gospel than in Matthew, Mark, and Luke: he says the Temple has become "a market place" (2:16). What is often not realized, is that it had to be! You needed certain animals to obey the laws of sacrifice, and because average worshippers didn't carry around doves or rams, they bought them at the Temple. So what Jesus is asking for is something that undermines that whole “God-box” of the Judaism of his day. From Jesus' point of view in John’s gospel, the temple becomes obsolete. With the Word made flesh we now see God more clearly. And what is surprising, to say the least, is that God is known everywhere, beyond the Temple, beyond even our own boxes in which we like to put God. Which means something that might ruffle feathers even to this day: we don't have to come to church to experience God. Our church can't contain God any more than the Temple. So, why, then, come to church? Because at worship in church we can hear God's Word proclaimed in a way that helps us see and experience God in all of life; we build community together in an unique way as the Body of Christ; and we are reminded of our calling to follow Jesus in ways that change our world and transform our hearts. Indeed, the "gravitation pull" of our life together should ultimately be outward. Not because we are simply in this to grow in numbers, but precisely because God calls us out into the world, out into the neighborhood, out into the “marketplaces” and “institutions of power” that populate our world. And the truth is that God is already there, active, engaging, loving, transforming. God is there, calling us out from ourselves, beyond our walls, and into the deep waters of this world.

See you Sunday,