Connecting to God
Life is busy, noisy and crowded. That experience is both an exterior one...just heed the clamor, the traffic, the yammering of all those other people! It is also an interior one, with our thoughts, desires, appetites and obsession all hollering for attention. We very often think that in order for us to be able to connect to God, we have to figure out how to get away from all that noise and distraction. We feel it would be best to go apart from all the hubub, get away from the crowds and arrive at a quiet, serene place where God is sure to be waiting with a hot cup of herbal tea and a desire to just sit and be with us...yes, that would be good. Perhaps even, dare we say it, GREAT?
In light of today's readings, though, it would seem that this idyll would be the last place God desires that we spend our energies pursuing. As far as God is concerned, we should be searching for our creator in the marketplace, where the beggars linger. We should be listening for that call of God in the midst of the roil of human conflict and commerce. We should be pursuing God's justice in the midst of the congregation, and not desire to be apart from it.
God wants us to get our hands dirty helping those in need. God wants us to get involved in rectifying injustice. God wants us to step up to changing our public and private selves, dialing back the distraction by returning to basics while we are involved and not by running away from the melee of existence.
This is indeed a very high calling. I don't know about you, but I can tell you that I am easily distracted. Noise, color and activity, coupled with people, objects and action provide me with more than enough distractions, more than enough ways to indulge my impulsive nature. Getting into a state of being in which I am in communion with God and working with God to serve the world with all that noise requires much more than an act of will. It is only by grace, God's grace, that I can function at all.
And yet, that is exactly what God is asking of us. In Jeremiah, the whole people of Israel is being called to account. Their willful indulgences in the many distractions their cosmopolitan lives offer has taken the whole nation off the beam. Obedience to the Law and adherence to the Covenant has been relegated to a back burner, and they are spending a lot more time tending the other pots on the stove that are simmering away with bits of idolatry, social iniquity and injustice tempting them with savory scents of self-justification and self-satisfaction.
God doesn't ask them to discard living fully into the world around them...what God does ask of them (and of us) is to keep a level focus on the priorities we should be concerned with: the state of those in need, the call to labor for justice and prayers that are more about healing the world than padding our sense of safety and certainty.
It's like chewing gum and walking, albeit a much more essential skill needed for the life of Christ: to be in them world while keeping ourselves focused on allowing God to work through us more than we can even ask or imagine.....now that's connecting to God!