Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Year C, Proper 24, Psalm 121:1-2, Help!

I lift up my eyes to the hills; *
from where is my help to come?
My help comes from the Lord, *
the maker of heaven and earth.

I am struggling to preach on the texts for this Sunday.  Pray.  Do not lose heart.  My help comes from the Lord.  These texts seem to be saying to me that if we simply have enough faith, God will, without delay, quickly grant justice to those who call on him.  The same, I would suppose, could be said for those whose prayers are for healing, or peace, or.  .  .  

The problem with such a promise is how does it not turn on the faithful when their prayers are not heard, when justice does not come, when the battle is lost to a devastating disease, when in spite of our prayers our world  continues to be embroiled in one conflict after another.  In the starkest terms, how many of our Jewish brothers and sisters died in the holocaust with prayers on their lips?

And how many, then, come away with the conclusion that they simply did not have enough faith, did not pray fervently enough, or were in some other way inadequate and hence, God simply did not choose to respond to their request?

But this  morning, I'm also thinking about my experience in AA.  AA is founded on the principle that freedom from alcohol can be achieved, not by our own power, but with the aid of a "higher power".  There is a truth in AA that I hate to speak, but is witnessed to time and time again.  Failure to embrace the help that comes from a higher power almost always results in the failure to succeed in program.

Total submission and admitting defeat is the starting point.  When one recognizes one's own failings and powerlessness over alcohol, then that opens the door for God to provide that which we cannot achieve ourselves.  And however we might understand that, many of us can only look back with gratitude that God did what we could never do, which is to remove from us the desire and compulsion to drink.  This was my experience.  This is the experience of the bulk of those  who have been freed from the power of alcohol through AA.

To what extent do these same lessons extend to other problems that we face?  

On the one hand, I still find myself confronted with the reality that the faithful suffer, and die, with prayers for deliverance on their lips.  On the other hand I cannot abandon the belief that if we surrender entirely to the power of God that we will experience the grace of God.

Perhaps the key is that the experience of God's grace comes to us in oft unexpected ways.  

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