If you look to the holy scriptures, there is no shortage of stories on rainbows. In Genesis, it was the sign of God’s covenant with Noah with ALL God’s living creatures. Australian Aborigine and American Indian legends link it to creation events. The rainbow has also been used to represent a bridge from earth (from humans) to a brighter, happier place in songs like “Over the Rainbow.” In Dr. Angelou’s example, it was used by the enslaved to imagine a better time, a freer time and in the HUMILITY with which she lived her life.
Before you worry that this is me using a faith witness to share my views on the flag issue, my main point here is to say that the more I grow in my understanding of God, the more humbled I become. I am more suspicious than ever of those convinced that THEY have the answers, for the Scriptures are being interpreted by THAT individual, through THEIR lens, having been TRANSLATED through numerous languages over thousands of years. Even if the Bible is the inspired word of God, it’s like 2000 year old game of telephone. The minute we THINK we know what it is saying, we have underestimated Jesus core message and overestimated OUR own understanding.
In today’s day of accusation anger and animosity in the news and politics, I feel more compelled than ever to be aware of my EGO and the ways it tries to convince me I am right rather than to recognize that God in ITS infinite wisdom has created a human race with infinite possibilities for thought. Maybe the greatest sin is not the traditional ways we think of it, but our PRIDE and lack of HUMILITY in our views on the world.
Most of you have parented or are parenting at present, whether your own children or your own aging parents. In my role as a dad, what strikes me is how much more VITAL it is to LIVE the gospel of love than to preach it. Even the evangelical churches are shrinking today. Why? I am not certain, and this is ONE interpretation, but I have heard on more than one occasion that the non-church goers do not the church-goers as having any real advantage over them. If you take a more GENEROUS view of sin and salvation than limiting it to life after death or not as many do, then what advantages DOES the church offer? My non-Christian or secular friends are every bit as kind, caring, socially-minded and centered as my Christian ones. For me, I tell them that the church, AS I SEE IT, offers a community, a chance to center oneself, a vehicle for providing for the poorest among us, a chance to let the spirit move through timeless words of hope and songs of joy.
Imagine re-inventing the way we do church. Look at the great spiritual leaders of the world. Imagine Mother Theresa spending her time arguing about flags or taxes. She didn’t have time for that, she was too busy living the gospel that Jesus embodied. Imagine the impact of shows like Jerry Springer vs. a show like Oprah. One was based on talking, arguing, sharing viewpoints while the other was basically devoted to ACTING out love in the world. Even Jesus, while he certainly shared views that upset the norm, his MAIN POINT was to LIVE OUT GOD’S LOVE, not spend time arguing about who should love whom. I believe God KNEW that our EGO would often hijack us from the important work of sharing love when we got too confused and too assured of our opinions.
As I listened to the speakers on youth Sunday, it struck me how wise and how pure they were in their look at the world around them. When THEY talk about SIN, they aren’t talking about cheap sex, drugs, lying and cheating. We can look at these as examples of sin. BUT What if we took a more expansive view of sin of being anything that separates us from the best, more pure version of ourselves? What if God is not a heaven-bound man NOR woman, but the best of all things, people, feelings, and places in the world?
If you subscribe to this for just a moment, then perhaps The Word has been revealed in more ways than we could imagine. Our limited HUMAN perspective that insists we have the answers, that WE have the inspired Word of God in the Bible but other texts like Rumi, the Torah, or the Quran are not. I can’t imagine God not envisioning the diversity of thought in 8 billion people and thinking “This one faith tradition ought to do it!” for everyone.
PERHAPS insisting that our viewpoint, our opinion, our ideas on parenting, or our judgment of others is the biggest SIN of all, and the one we keep repeating while trying hard not to lie, cheat, steal, or follow the other ten commandments. To me the commandments may have come from God, but they weren’t particularly earth-shattering. They were basic instructions for living ethically. And most of us are hardwired to do them anyway.
Imagine what kind of a world we’d live in if HUMILITY was our counteraction to sin. The misperceptions of hypocrisy in the church would fade away when the church was more concerned with ACTION than with WORDS. I pray for my own children that this is the world they will live in, and this is the way they will live out the gospel of Jesus. Anything less would seem to be selling them short of the fully realized gift of God as revealed in His son, and his horrid death. Anything less, FOR ME, stops at Good Friday and never completes the resurrection.
Let us pray…
God, may we embrace a more expansive vision of your path for us TODAY, HERE and NOW. May this manifest in the way we THINK about ourselves, and how humble we are in our views about everything from the way the coffee is brewed to the way we view worship to how we judge ourselves and others. Challenge us into coming into this place called Federated not JUST that we might be comforted and find the PEACE we know you promise us, but to BRING more light and love to the world so desperately in need of a new hope. Grant us humility, Holy Creator, that we might fully realize the resurrection story.