Today’s readings are about prayer. God’s word is efficacious. It goes forth and produces results. Jesus taught the disciples how to pray. They are not to babble on like pagans. The prayer he taught them says it all.
I want to focus on new insights into prayer from Walter Breuggemann and Robert Heaney (http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/021913.html). Daniel’s prayer on behalf of the people in Daniel 9 is a prayer which recounts Israel’s failures at covenant keeping. Israel sins. Israel repents. God forgives. The prayer also shows that the Israelites realized that God has agency in their lives. God can and does act in the lives of people. The covenant is not s set pattern like Torah. The covenant is a back and forth negotiation between God and God’s people. Brueggemann says that Isaiah 56 is a deliberate contradiction to Torah. God will welcome eunuchs and foreigners to God’s holy mountain. God is not bound by God’s previous acst. God is free to change God’s ways as the relationship with the people progresses. (I bet Walter cannot sell this exegesis to the patriarchs of the Vatican!)
Both Heaney and Brueggemann point out that God often acted to save God’s reputation. Brueggemann likened this to parents wanting their children to behave at dinner in a restaurant so that the parents would look good. Hmmmm! We can make God look bad and God wants to look good; therefore, God will act to preserve God’s good name. This happens often in the Old Testament. Ezekiel 36 is but one example. God will act to restore God’s reputation among the nation. The roller coaster ride of the covenant relationship goes on and on. Brueggemann says our moral choices have consequences as we work out our relationship with God who is with us and beyond us. Note the emphasis on a developing personal relationship between and God’s people. God is about relationships, not dogmas and rules.
This is powerful stuff. How do we make God look bad? For starters we can begin with the cartoon by Mike Luckovich in today’s Atlanta Journal and Constitution (http://blogs.ajc.com/mike-luckovich/). It is a two frame cartoon. In the first frame MLK says, “I have a dream.” In the second frame Obama says, “I have a drone.” We make God look bad when we murder others to achieve our goals. We make God look bad when we resort to war and the threat of nuclear weapons after proclaiming we are a Christian nation that trusts in God. We make God look bad when we fail to follow the challenge of the Beatitudes and Matthew 25. We make God look bad when we slander our neighbors. We make God look bad when we strike back at our enemies.
The list could go on and on. The point is that our actions ruin God’s reputation for being a God of justice, peace, love and forgiveness. This analysis of the efficacy of prayer teaches us that God will act to restore God’s good name and reputation among the nations.
Daniel and other Jewish prophets firmly believed that God acted in their lives and history. We tend to put God up there and out there far removed from what is going on in our lives and in our world. Not so. The Risen Cosmic Christ is bringing all things to Kin-dom fulfillment as the Spirit moves us toward the Omega Point. Through the power of His Holy Spirit, Christ is active and intervenes in our lives. What we often mistake for consequences are God’s interventions. In our healing ministry group, we share God moments—times when God has been present to us and active in our lives. There are no coincidences as far as God is concerned. The bottom line is this. If we truly trust in the God of Love, Peace, and Justice, then we cannot resort to violence, injustice and greed to achieve our goals. If we do, there will be consequences. Our job is to make God look good to the nations. When we act otherwise we tarnish God’s reputation and God assures us that God will be faithful and restore God’s reputation among the nations.
Ponder this, folks. This is a real paradigm shift! Come, Lord Christ. Heal us and restore Abba’s reputation among the nations. The Green Heron in the photograph makes God look good be being a Green Heron. We make God look good by being fully human becoming divine.