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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Backseat Drivers: Ordinary 29, Year B

Backseat Driver by Bob Dornburg
This Week's Lectionary Texts:
Job 38:1-7, (34-41) or Isaiah 53:4-12
Psalm 104:1-9, 24-35c or Psalm 91:9-16
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

This Week's Reflection:
Okay, I'm about to use the word awesome, but I don't want to do so until you understand that I'm not using it in the way that every Christian rock star used it in the early nineties. God is an awesome God. Yep, I said it. God is an awesome God in every sense that the word awe means "an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like."

Backseat Driver by John Magnus
This week's lectionary texts practically call out from the page, "God is an awesome God!" The Job passage is that amazing moment when God has had enough of Job's questions and complaints. I imagine myself with my children in a similar situation, let's say, driving down the street. And, these two beautiful angels speak up from the backseat, "This isn't the right way, is it?" or "Are you driving over the speed limit?" or "Why did you go through that yellow light?" A ten and seven year old who just now learned to ride their bikes suddenly become experts on driving! And, I have very mixed emotions about how to respond because on the one hand, I am incredibly frustrated and just want them to leave me alone and let me drive. But on the other hand, I also want them to understand that I am older, wiser, and know more than they do. I want them to understand that they can rest and relax and know that their mother will get them where they need to be as safely as possible. I want them to trust me.

So, Job has been asking all these questions. Everyone around him has told him he may as well just give up on God. Elihu, his friend, has been prattling along for a while and then "out of the storm, the Lord speaks." And, what does God say? Regardless of whether God is addressing Elihu or Job himself, the message is clear. "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" In other words, sit back, relax, shut up, and know that you can trust me!

In God We Trust by Kevin Dooley
The Isaiah passage says the same thing with different words. Foreshadowing the torment and killing of the Christ, the prophet encourages us to trust that God is wiser, stronger, and has been driving a lot longer than we have in this world. Even the Christ in the midst of so much suffering will not "open his mouth."

Psalm 104 fits nicely (like a group of people planned it or something) with the Job text as it reminds us that God "stretched out the heavens" driving home that God is awesome and we can only begin to understand a tiny bit of how awesome God really is. And, Psalm 91 echoes the images of the Christ suffering but ultimately knowing that "angels will bear you."

The Hebrews passage points us back to the Christ, Jesus as our High Priest, but a High Priest that does not seek to be God's equal. Once again, the Holy Narrative is reminding us - through the actions of Jesus - that God is the one driving this car and we should trust that we will get where we are supposed to be going. If Jesus didn't seek to be God's equal, how could we ever even think to give God driving advice from the backseat?

Angelic by K. Williams
And that, of course, brings us down to the gospel lesson in which James and John act like two spoiled kids in the back of the car. I can't help but wonder if they had to work up to this. The text makes it seem that they just jump right in with the question. And, this is immediately following Jesus trying to be as clear as possible about his coming death, not to mention all the stories leading up to this one where he seems to be practically beating them over the head to change the preconceived ideas they had of what the Messiah is. "Hey, hey Jesus, dude, we got a question for ya. Yeah, yeah, we know we are tight with ya, see, and we don't ever want to be too far from you. So, could we ride shot-gun for all of eternity, man?"

Backseat Driver by Seth Stoll
You know the rest. I get tired on behalf of Jesus just reading about this idiocy. I know they didn't know any better. I know they were only living out of their own cultural and theological contexts, but man, if that had been me they were asking, it would have been a whole, "I WILL PULL THIS VAN OVER RIGHT HERE!" moments.

God is an awesome God. So awesome, in fact, that God simply reminds us of who is driving, of who has been driving longer than we have been alive, and of who loves us so much that we will get where we are going and we'll get there on time. God is so awesome that God makes us sit in our booster seats with our seat belts fastened even though we think we could do a pretty decent job of driving ourselves.