My friends, I found myself this week thinking about the beauty of our precious earth, amid the burning of the Amazon and the heating of our oceans, this place we all call home, the only place in this grand universe that any of us or anyone that we have ever known has lived and died upon. If we go out as far as technology can take us and look back at our earth, it appears as a very small, blue dot! Yet, all the relationships we have ever known of for ourselves and all others happened here, and will continue to, for hopefully, a very long time. As one reflects on this, it is a very humbling thing.
Sirach, in the first reading today, calls us to this kind of humility and to a sense of care for so great a gift. The writer says, “Be gentle in carrying out your business/the greater you are, the more you should behave humbly.” In conclusion, this writer speaks of the great power and potential that lies within “charitable giving,” or giving from the heart.
With regard to the beauty of the earth and preserving that, I always enjoy September and the coming of the fall time of the year—I have fondly—over the years called it, “jeans and sweatshirt weather.” I personally wouldn’t need to have it ever be much warmer than 75 degrees with a gentle breeze at my back. Of course, the farmers need warmer weather to make their crops grow, so that has to be part of the heat cycle for me as well. And when summer is past; I can have my favorite temps for a month or so.
In conjunction with this, I have always enjoyed the variety of weather that this part of the world provides us and I would never want to do anything to disrupt that cycle of variety that we enjoy here.
The second reading today to the Hebrews continues in this vein of “right living,” we might say, in laying out the true relationship that each of us should strive after with our God, others and the planet. This writer says that our God is not one that we should consider as “untouchable,” but one who is “the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,” one who is surrounded by “myriads of angels,” gathering for a feast. To me, this God sounds very relational, and most concerned about “right living,” for all of creation.
The writer to the Hebrews is also speaking about a “just” God for all women and men, one who will judge us all, and the goodness of this God, who we know, is so perfectly shown in our brother, Jesus.
And finally, the idea of moving humbly in our world is once again shown so well through the words of Jesus in Luke today, “They who exalt themselves will be humbled.”
So, my friends, “humility” seems to be the operative word today as we reflect on who we are as individuals and of how we should responsibly engage our world, its people, and really, all of creation. The days when we can deny, if we ever did, that our beautiful, blue planet is heating up, are over. Regardless of political preference, this issue has grown beyond that and become a matter that all humans must consider!
I have mentioned in the past, the work of Brian McLaren in The Great Spiritual Migration and he has spoken well about how our thinking and ultimately, our action in our world must change at a very deep level—internally, culturally, politically and spiritually.
He tracks the “God” that has been a part of most of our lives in this country—denominationally, whether it be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim or other religious groups. He lists these “Gods” on a scale from 1.0—5.0.
The version of God, 1.0 is the one who was supposed to solve all our problems and people who believe in this God are angry when he hasn’t made their lives that of “a warm blanket or a dry diaper”—in other words, this is an infantile God.
The God, 2.0 is one who is gracious, wants all of us to be nice and get along. This God is all that some people can handle, McLaren says.
God, 3.0 is for all those who are most comfortable living by the rules and would like to impose those rules on everyone else.
God, 4.0 is a “God of love” and if you believe in this version, you may want to convert everyone else to this God, having them, along with yourself, migrate from selfishness to other-centeredness, from self-interest to the common good, from me to we.
This God sounds quite good, wouldn’t you say? The thing is, McLaren says, this God is still an exclusive God who shows favor to us, but not to them. No matter the denomination, this God leads to affection, fidelity and forgiveness in family, community and nation—but only for people from our religion, ethnicity or tribe.
McLaren continues—so while God 4.0 moves us in a good direction from “me, myself and mine” (personal selfishness) to “we and our,” (social maturity), “this same God is still the violent God whose genocide card we keep in our back pocket if we are threatened, or if they have something we desire. The word we, it turns out, can be pretty dangerous, because it can “otherize” and dehumanize those who aren’t like us.
Those of us Catholic women who have followed their calls to ordained ministry see this “God” displayed in Church officials and those who want to remain in good standing with them.
And finally McLaren offers this hope if we can accept it: “We need God 5.0 to emerge, a God of the inclusive we, the God not just of us, but of all of us. Only a bigger, nondualistic God can unite us and them in an inclusive identity that is not limited to a tribe or nation, but extends to all of humanity, and not just all humanity, but to all living things, and not just to all living things, but to all the planetary ecosystems in which we share…we need to move to a grown-up God,” in other words.
So my friends, if we would choose God 5.0 to follow, then the days when we can stick our heads in the sand, refusing to do our part—whether that be speaking our truth within a group of friends, writing or calling our Congress people, leading our congregations to truth—with love, whatever it might be, are over.
Everything within these Sunday readings then, push us in the direction of truly knowing ourselves, coming to terms with how wonderfully each of us is made, with how much potential each of us has for good in our world, if we don’t set that aside for the comfortable way out. What is called for, it seems to me is BALANCE—knowing our potential, yet standing humbly before our God, realizing that we need this “grown-up God” to stand beside us, to show us the way, to be all that we can be—all that our world and its people need. Amen? Amen!