Friday, October 07, 2005

FORGETTING THE AMNESIATIC GOD


READING: MATTHEW 22: 1-14, EXODUS 25: 1-9,
PSALM 106: 1-6, 19-23

WHAT'S THE DEAL? DO ALL GOD'S PEOPLE JUST GET AMNESIA?

As I was reading these passages this week I realized something. According to these narratives- the people of God have a hard time remembering their past. And when we forget our stories there's no telling what we'll make of the present....

EXODUS
Moses has been gone too long. There's no sign of the Israellite's leader, no sign of the cloud that comtained God who had been travelling alongside the people. And an outbreak of chronic forgetfulness was creeping in. The people forgot who it was that called them out of Egypt, forgot who made a safe passage for them when faced with a powerful Egyptian army, forgot who had been providing for them day in and day out since they had been wandering in the desert.

This is not news to me. I've read this before. But I stumbled onto something I had not thought about before. We can say anything we want about the Israellites concerning the creating of the calf, but they seem to be nothing but a "chip off the old block" because God too seems to be forgetful and has a bad case of amnesia. God sees what the people have done and decides to simply obliterate God's people.

God's anger seems to get the best of God when God declares to Moses, "I look at this people--oh! what a stubborn, hard-headed people! Let me alone now, give my anger free reign to burst into flames and incinerate them. But I'll make a great nation out of you (Moses)."

Moses then basically says to God, "Have you FORGOTTEN your promise that you made to YOUR PEOPLE- the promise to bring them out of Egypt into the promised land and to make them great?"

Moses seems to have the wonderful job of being the KEEPER OF MEMORIES AND STORIES. And the job of the KEEPER is to help people to re-member their stories. God seems to have momentarily forgotten the story and so has Gods people. So Moses confronts God and asks God to "re-member" God's promise. Then Moses goes to the Israellites and confronts them and tells them to "re-member" their story.

Interestingly I have a deeper appreciation for God after reading this story. The rational Westerner in me usually thinks in terms such as "God is unchanging", or "God is ominpotent or omnipresent", etc.. etc... . But then I read the this and I am reminded that we have domesticated the Hebrew God who sometimes is just simply WILD AND UNTAME and utterly beyond us. And yes, the Hebrew God seems to be much more fluid, change/process oriented than the God we like to worship. There are things that I love about this and things that scare the hell out of me. But thank you Moses for helping God and Gods children to "re-member" who they were and their story.

PSALM
The psalm for this week is a petition to God to remember Gods people in every moment of our life. This re-membering is important for the Community of God. Re-membering has a dynamic aspect and very active dimension to it. To re-member is not just to recall, but to practice the retelling of our story in such a way that we continue to live the story of our faith in the here and now and allow the story to re-member the the body of Christ, or to unify and strengthen who we are as brothers and sisters.

MATTHEW
In the Matthew telling of the banquet story the dinner host is an absolute prig! After his guests all bail on him sends his servants out to invite anyone who is willing to come to the party- good, bad, ugly, rich, poor, outcast, whoever. So the servants do so. (here's where it gets ugly) The guesthall is filled and host ought to be pleased (since the servants have brought back exactyl who the host told them to bring). But instead the host singles out one individual who is "dressed the wrong way"

In pure drama queen fashion the host declares, "Friend, how dare you come in here looking like that!' The man was speechless. Then the king told his servants, "Get him out of here--fast. Tie him up and ship him to hell. And make sure he doesn't get back in.'

Did the host send word to the guests ahead of time what the appropriate dress was? Would some of these folks know the "appropriate attire for such a banquent (especially if they were not part of the social class that attended such banquets)? Did the host have to call this person out in such fashion.

I would suggest that maybe this parable is a "how not to host a party" in the kingdom of God. I wonder if Jesus was saying through this parable- "our dear host has FORGOTTEN our STORY- the part that talks about welcoming the stranger/sojourner when he/she is among us." Maybe this was Jesus' wake up call to RE-MEMBER, rebuild the commUNITY of God.

MAY WE HEAR THE STORIES, AND RE-MEMBER (or live out) THE STORY IN COMMUNITY WITH ONE ANOTHER.

shalom,
jonathon

(this article can also be found at Radical Preaching)

5 comments:

John Wilks said...
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John Wilks said...

I think this is precisely why Wesley stresses the need for frequent communion- because remembrance is absolutely pivotal to Christian discipleship. It is a pity so few churches are willing to come to the table every week and to build their worship around the act of remembrance.

So much of Christian worship today is centered in "making the Gospel relevant" to daily life. We put everything into the context of the current culture's symbols and mythology- we use movies clips, images, music all pulled from our world and making the salvation story fit into it.

And very small doses of this can be helpful for Evangelism and the like I'm sure.

But discipleship is not about making the Gospel relevant to our daily lives. Discipleship is about making our daily lives relevant to the Gospel.

After all, the Gospel has gone before my life and will go one when I'm taking the big dirt nap waiting for Jesus to come back. So why should I seek the Gospel to change for me when it is I who should yield for the sake of the Gospel?

It is no accident that God used the Passover as the foreshadowing to the Cross. In Passover, even to this very day, the Jewish families proclaim "when we we slaves in Egypt..."

That "we" is so significant- it is the heart of the Biblical meaning of remembrance. They don't just tell the story, they embrace they story as their own, interpret their stories by the story of Passover. For them, the Passover account is never finished, every generation of Jews belongs to the generation of the Exodus. There are no more pharaohs in Egypt, but God's act of deliverance lives on.

And so it is when we Christians gather at the Lord's Table. We are reclining with Peter and John and Andrew watching Jesus break that bread. It is our story as much as theirs, and when we break it together we encounter Christ as they did. Christ can touch us as He touched them, use us as He used them.

When we "re-member" Christ, we don't simply recall something He once did, but we witness and participate in something He is still doing. We find the story by which our very lives make sense. We become a people bound by a living story with no end, for He is Alive! And our very lives are transformed by remembrance of Him into something holy and eternal- full of grace and love and power.

gavin richardson said...

thanks for helping me with my youth gathering this week!

shalom
bff

John said...

Have you read Telling the Story by Andrew Walker? He's a PoMo seminary prof in London who addresses this issue. Walker says that forgetting the story of where we have been as a people of faith has continued to modern times and offers solutions on how to ameliorate this amnesia.

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