Deacon Cornellís Homily


Genesis 18:20-32
Colossians 2:12-14
Luke 11:1-13


July 24-25, 2010 - Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C

There were two young brothers staying overnight at their grandparents. They had been tucked into bed in the room right above their grandparents and were settling down to sleep when the younger one jumped out of bed, knelt down and started praying in a very loud voice, "Please God, let grandma and grandpa get me a bike for Christmas." As he got back into bed, his older brother said, "You don't have to shout. God isn't hard of hearing you know." His younger brother retorted, "I know that, but grandma and grandpa are."

The first and Gospel readings today obviously focus on praying. But I would suggest that it is not easy to understand what they are saying about praying. And I suspect the reason we have trouble understanding what prayer is all about is how we think about God. If we are really honest about it, most of us who proclaim to be Christians have an image of God that is an idol. Because of a whole series of historical reasons, most people in our culture think about God as if God is just another Being. A Being with all sorts of power and perfection but in the end the God we have inherited is more like a super hero than the God the scriptures reveal. And so we have this picture of praying as a process that somehow attracts the attention of this super Being, and convinces him of the importance or righteousness of our plea so that he will use these super powers to make things the way we think they should be. And of course this approach to praying and thinking about God causes all kinds of trouble. It results in extremist behavior on all sides. I would suggest it is the single biggest reason for the rise in atheism, especially among the young. I think it is really important to listen to those who have rejected God and religion because for the most part, they are rejecting a false God and dysfunctional religion. We would do well to make sure the God we worship does not resemble the God they have rejected.

God is not just another Being among other beings in creation. God is Being itself. The scriptures were not given to us as a way to help us figure out who God is. Scripture, if we read it prayerfully and intelligently, reminds us over and over again that we can never understand God; God is so completely other that we will never be able to describe or define God. Oh, we can learn little tidbits about who God is but the primary task of scripture is to reveal to us who God isn't. The story from Genesis is about that. Abraham has no experience with this God who called him to leave his home and to become a mighty nation. His questioning is an attempt to figure out whether this God is like the gods of his ancestors and the surrounding nations; those gods were capricious and violent and antagonistic towards humans. In this exchange, Abraham learns that this God who has called him is none of those things; this God values human life and cares for creation. Why does that matter to Abraham and for that matter to us? Because the God of scripture calls us to respond. This God of ours calls us to live a certain way that is true and whole, and by doing so we make truth and wholeness real in this world. God does not call us to believe in the sense of agreeing that something is true. God calls us to trust. So it is important that we spend time getting to know this God we are called to be faithful to.

There is an old saying in the Church that in Latin is: lex orandi, lex credendi. It means as we pray so we believe. If we pray to change God's mind so that he will do things our way, then we demonstrate that we believe in a God made in our image. If we pray and go to church and try to be good because we believe that is how we get to heaven, we are not believing in the God scripture reveals. Listen to how Jesus teaches us how to pray: Father, your kingdom come. That's it. That's what Jesus thought is was important to pray for. The rest of that prayer are ways to accomplish this coming of the kingdom.

What is God's plan for establishing his kingdom? That is simple too if we pay attention to scripture. Human beings will bring about this kingdom by living in response to the love God has shown for us. We pray the Our Father not to remind God to establish his kingdom, but like the younger brother in the story, to remind ourselves that we are the ones God has chosen to bring this about. Love is not something that you do in an instant, or part time. It takes persistence. Love only works when we work it, day and night, day after day. We are called to be the body of Christ who comes to bring salvation to this world. We can't do that part time. And we can't do that if we have a false image of who this Christ is. So I need to keep asking, seekng and knocking. Not for God to change and do things my way but for me to change so I can see that God has already given me everything I need to help love the kingdom of God into reality.

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