Sunday, January 23, 2011

In Human Form

by Walter Brueggemann

from Prayers for a Privileged People, 153-154

On Reading 1 Samuel 16:11-13

You are God, high, lifted up, majestic.
As we say, “Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory . . .

You are high and lifted up;
it dazzles us that you work your will
through human agents—
those whom you call and choose and empower,
even the weak, the lowly, the nobodies.

You are high and lifted up;
it stuns us that you have worked your will
through such human agents as David,
the runt of the family,
almost left behind and forgotten,
and you called him to power and
obedience and success.

You are high and lifted up;
it staggers us that you have worked your will
through this Jesus of Nazareth,
he of no pedigree,
he of no form or comeliness,
he who emptied himself in obedience;
and you have raised him to new life,
before whom every knee shall bow.

You are high and lifted up;
it astonishes us that you work your will
through human agents like us,
people of little consequence and
limited capacity.

You call us beyond ourselves;
you send us beyond our imagination;
you empower us beyond our capacity,
and we become your agents in the world,
day by day doing justice and mercy and compassion.

At the end of the day we still say in astonishment,
that you are high and lifted up and majestic.
We are your creatures,
and we give our life back to you,
filled with gratitude,
eager for the rest that only you can give.

It’s impressive—it’s dazzling, stunning, staggering, astonishing—that the high and majestic God not only stoops to notice us and cherish us, but also calls us to enact God’s own will and character. And not only calls us to such an unachievable task, but enables us to do it.

Who are we to make the ruler of heaven’s will come true on earth?

Over Christmas break, we spent a couple days with my cousin and his family. I volunteered to make some puff pastry pinwheels for our Christmas Eve dinner, and as I started to put the pinwheels together, little Addy pulled her stool up to the counter and excitedly offered me her services. Could I have made the pinwheels without Addy’s help? Absolutely. Could I have made them better and more quickly without her help? Probably. But letting her help—and teaching her how to make puff pastry pinwheels—was more important than efficiency or showing off my cooking abilities.

I imagine that us helping God accomplish things is a little like Addy helping me make pastries that day. God doesn’t need our help. God is far more capable than we are of doing justice and mercy and compassion. But maybe the relationship is more important. Maybe our being useful despite our feebleness is more important than a flawless outcome or a pristine process.

The Christmas Eve pinwheels turned out wonderfully regardless of the sous chef’s youth and inexperience. When I reach the end of my life, I hope that I will have done a good job with the responsibilities God has entrusted to me. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and hurt a lot of people along the way, and I’m bound to mess up some more. But I hope that the end result will be a good one that will make my sovereign proud.

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