We aren’t rewarded with peace, prosperity, and acclaim. Maybe one of those, but it likely involves our commitment to the world, not to God. We probably don’t get harmony in our family and among our friends. Not really.
So, what’s this good news stuff?
Image by Anita S.
By John Pearring
(These are the readings for next Saturday - We shifted reflection readings this week)
Here’s something that Christians don’t say.
“Jesus, I have come to believe that you are the true Son of God. Life will be much easier now. I won’t have any more problems. Thank you for taking away all the dangers and woes that have bothered me for so long.”
That’s not true about our God. The god we may want is likely not the real God. Here’s how you can tell. Our desires for peace, prosperity, and the world's acclamation probably won’t happen after God becomes real. Review Jesus’ “Good News.” The proof that God has entered into our lives ends up with a very different message.
The Gospel, or Good News, is a mantra of events. It begins with Jesus’ incarnation, meaning God entered creation as one of us. He lived a typical life on earth. A birth surrounded by trauma for our parents. Misunderstood as a child and an adult, Jesus suffers throughout his life, especially at death. That process is not foreign to us.
After three days—his death was fully confirmed, and the disciples were grieving—Jesus was resurrected. Some 40 days later, with his disciples present, Jesus ascended into heaven with a promise to return. The good news message is fulfilled as told in the prophecies of the Jewish Testaments. Did that achieve the things we build in our minds about God?
We aren’t rewarded with peace, a prosperous world, and acclaim for being good Christians. Maybe one of those pops up periodically, but it seldom gets credited to God. We probably don’t get harmony in our family and among our friends, either. Not really. So, what’s this good news stuff?
The gospel message is a fully 'vested' revelation that God not only exists but is incarnated as one of us. He lived, died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. I say it’s a “vested” revelation because it is certified and proven as prophesied in the Old Testament. We have an apparent, amazing God that we couldn’t have imagined. The real God is unique from our daily expectations of a god.
We get a God who joins us in creation but does not operate equally for everyone about money, power, fame, and revenge. He cares little for these things.
We get a God who conquered death by raising his tortured and murdered body into an immortal one, a wholeness of body and spirit that testifies to our resurrections. We get a God in human bodily form who ascended to Paradise, where our ancestors once lived before the fall. He doesn’t ascend himself, though, until he gets all those ancestors taken back. He does that before his bodily resurrection. And now, he sits as our King, waiting for us to arrive, while in ways we don’t know, he’s preparing a restoration of everything back into unification with Paradise.
This promise of Heaven and restoration is a huge motivation, but one where we need constant reminding. While we still must live in various measures of misery, it’s difficult to see creation being readied for a complete restoration. We’re here now. We wonder why there are still dire consequences after his good news.
God doesn’t work the way we think.
We may see ourselves as the good guys, fighting through a gauntlet to secure a place for God. Some folks say God needs to be located in a secret place, in our hearts or heads. We must peel back all these awful and distracting parts of ourselves to find him. We have to make ourselves good, and then we’ll finally get a glimpse of God. At times, we believe we must make him love us.
That’s all nonsense. God is right here even though we’ve got ugly spots, bad habits, annoying fetishes, and histories we’d like to forget. He forgives all that—when we repent and ask for his aid. It’s so easy that few believe it.
We strive to live in peace, prosperity, and holiness. All good things, but we don’t control those things. Peace comes from the God who lives in us. Peace with God and other believers in God happens while we’re being bothered by life, living with disease, hobo broke, surrounded by evil, and constantly worried that some crappy thing or another is just around the corner. Peace with God is available amid awfulness, not after we’ve removed it.
Holiness is often our biggest disappointment. We try rituals, sincere prayer, almsgiving, and being pure as the driven snow. While all of these holy actions remind us of goodness and mirror the character of God, they are just as fleeting as prosperity. Confession and repentance mark our everyday interactions with God. Our returns to God give him the most joy. We can feel his love when we know he forgives us.
If we expect that God makes our family and friends love us for who we are because God loves us, then we’ve manufactured god, not the actual met God who has entered our hearts. We may want arguments, violent exchanges, harsh words, and grudges to go away. All should be well in our households and gathering places. But that’s not how we’ll know we’ve found God.
Happy homes and friendships are not proof that we’re in the lap of God. Jesus spent three years with a bunch of knuckleheads. Just like us. He loved them anyway, and even in his frustrations, he shows us that love has many sides. Jesus ran from the crowds, then spent all night healing them. He hid from the apostles, and they followed him like puppies. His family thought he’d lost his mind, and he added them to his ranks as disciples.
Jesus was not an easy rabbi. He was not complacent and agreeable like we want. He told his leadership and the disciples that they were to eat his body and drink his blood. Nobody was thrilled by this. Many Catholics still can’t accept that statement today. Entire Protestant faiths are built upon rationalizations and other less "cannibal-like" translations about his body and blood.
Jesus asked those who stayed, “Are you going to leave me, too?” Peter nailed the answer.
“Who else can we turn to? You’re the incarnated Son of God. You sound out of your mind, but we’ve got to swallow this mysterious thing you’re saying because you’re the One. Who are we to say no to God?”
Nope. Peter didn’t know what would come, but he trusted Jesus. Not right away, of course. Peter knew Jesus was exceptional, but he didn’t have all the evidence. After the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension, Peter grasped the promised life to come. That’s the gospel message for us, too.
Want peace, holiness, and prosperity? Give this life we live to God for whatever purpose God wants. Translate those hopes into God’s grace instead. It’s no longer our life. We’re not in charge of what God should do. Use us any way you want, God, and when you’re done with me, “Hallelujah!”