Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 86: Joshua 22-24; Psalm 72; John 7

Fair-weather faith...
A long time ago, when I was in college and the playoff season for baseball was in full swing I was watching a game with some of my fraternity brothers. I am not a particularly avid fan of baseball, and despite a genetic predilection favoring the Detroit Tigers I don't follow a team. That day, however, I had a couple of brothers who were serious fans, and their team-one that on the whole did not usually make the playoffs-was doing well indeed. Another of the brothers present had recently expressed his support for the team, but instead of being received with joy, he got teased for being a "fair-weather fan." It seemed to the "serious" fans of the team that just because their team was winning, this other one was deciding to cheer for them. That was probably the case, but I could see the tension is created in the room. You really only had "credit" as a fan, the ardent ones held, if you cheered for the team during good times and bad...and for that team, the times were usually pretty bad.

That is entertaining for a group of college boys arguing in front of a ball game, perhaps it is even to be expected. But when it becomes a focus of theological understanding in a community, then the stakes become much more costly.

Joshua's last moments
Today in our readings, Joshua has come to the end of his long life. He has led Israel, its tribes, families and fighting bands into the Promised Land. The allotments have been made. All of the tribes have their lands, their respective heritages and their cities. You would think this would be cause for celebration? Not so much. Again, we come to the question f fidelity: Joshua, as did Moses, reminds Israel that God has been good to them through some really hard times. God called Abraham up from beyond the Euphrates and guided him in his wanderings, securing for that old man as well a heritage that would last to this day and beyond. God was with Abraham's sons and descendants, providing for them and protecting them in times of duress, even during times of famine. God took them into Egypt for protection, and brought them out again from slavery. God kept them whole in the desert, and gave them the Land. God did all that, and only asked for fidelity to the Covenant. Don't go after other Gods. Keep the practices and the worship you have been given. Keep yourselves connected to each other, with God as the primary connective tissue and all will be well.

Don't be a fair-weather fan, a person of faith who is with, and for God when the blessings flow, but forgets when the need for God ebbs. Or worse, that we become a people who continually put God to the test...

A young boy's lunch...
...as happens in John, in the wake of the feeding of the multitude. A young boy's lunch becomes a feast for a VERY large crowd. It is another of Jesus' signs, and a good one at that. God again provides food for the people in a barren place, and does so with a certain theatrical panache. As well, Jesus comes to the disciples over the water. Only one boat crosses a choppy sea, and everyone knew Jesus wasn't in the boat when it cast off...and yet, here he is. Miraculous signs...give us more! We will believe, as long as you continue to show up and deliver!

Fair-weather faith: it is a tough thing to deal with as the Church. We celebrate people expressing faith in any kind, and yet for the folk who commit to God through thick and thin (read: Joshua, or the Pharisees), there is a reticence in accepting what might seem a flash-in-the-pan enthusiasm cheering for God. Even the disciples bridle with Jesus' teachings as the cost of following God seems to keep rising. They themselves say that the teachings are hard, and difficult for many to follow. At the end of the chapter, many who were following him depart....

All of this musing brings me back to that moment on the couch with my fraternity brothers. What was a semi-goodnatured ribbing of a fair-weather fan is today a ward for us all: faith is not something to be toyed with, nor is it something that the "more" faithful can possibly hold against those "less" faithful. What matters most is a willingness to be in relationship to God ad to each other. That is the fidelity that Joshua (and Moses before him) reminds Israel is more than just a flash-in-the-pan/fair-weather commitment. That is the faith that Jesus asks of those who follow him. You don't need to be overly ardent, over and against everyone else...just consistent, and welcoming of any who show up wanting to know more of God and more of life in God. There is faith enough for all, in fair weather and otherwise.

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