Things are getting hot, all around. In Judges: Deborah, Barak and Jael...and then Gideon/Jerubbaal mix it up with Jabin/Sisera and the Midianites, respectively. In Psalms: the writer laments at the absence of God's word and the preeminence of violence against God's people, and God's places, in the Land. In John, the Pharisees continue to put Jesus to the test, this time with a woman condemned for adultery, even as they argue their pride of place with God as Abraham's heirs.
In all three narratives, I am seeing this morning a common theme: that in the kingdom (and hence, presence) of God there is much expected of us, trust in the one who is "I AM." It seems so simple, really. God speaks to us, calls us and we then respond. The problem is that when God calls to us, that call is usually above and beyond what we usually expect from ourselves. It requires of us a leap into faith that no matter what God calls us to, the one thing we can trust in is that God will be with us.
|Barak, Deborah, Jael and her tent peg...|
Barak insists on Deborah accompanying him on his campaign against the army of Sisera. Gideon continually insists on signs from God that God's protection is upon him and his people. Jesus continues to grapple with the Pharisees, whose zeal for God and for the Law clouds their experience of him, the incarnate Son. Even the Psalmist's lament asks for God to manifest God's majesty in the face of the destruction of the sanctuaries. When God's places are destroyed, then where is God?
|Gideon and his fleece...|
But, how can God be God if we insist on defining God's methods and agenda? It doesn't really work. God proves that again and again...honor for the defeat of Sisera goes to Jael, her bowl of milk and her tent peg. Gideon spends more time under cover of the night, and tinkering with bits of fleece on threshing floors than trusting God. The Pharisees seek to trap Jesus in an impossible challenge.
And God continues to show that 1) victory, whatever that is, always belongs to and comes from God; and 2) just when you think you have God figured out and boxed in, there is always a moment reserved by God that you can't assume pride of place. God's purpose is to get us to walk the talk, to live faithfully and responsively to God's calls to justice and fidelity.
It all comes down to the reality of life with God, that God is continually reframing what "success" looks like, and reminding us that the only agendas we have any business subscribing to are the agendas that further God's purpose, God's justice and God's love for the world and all that dwell therein.