Theocratic times: Advent edition (alternate ending)

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

For all its benefits, the trouble with theocracy is that you never know what God is going to do next. It makes it hard to plan and budget. It just becomes so inconvenient to start making plans for God only to have him ask you where you came up with that crazy idea. Acting on God’s behalf is notoriously tricky, even for God’s hand picked aces.

But let’s not be too hard on King David for wanting to build God a house. After all, God had been painstakingly delivering all of David’s enemies and even some enemies’ wives into his hands. It only seemed fitting that God’s house should be at least as nice as David’s (Who better than David to identify with the need to come home, kick back and put your feet up after a long day of sword whetting on Philistine skulls?). And really, it’s kind of embarrassing when your house has more bling than your deities’:

“See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” That’s cute David, but the “tent” was God’s idea, the heavens are his footstool and he’s the one building you an eternal kingdom. Yahweh is not high-maintenance.

It’s a good thing kings always eventually figure out how to do God’s will most of the time, otherwise we’d have a litany of tragic monarchies to show for it.

 

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Theocratic times: Advent edition

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

For all its benefits, the trouble with theocracy is that you never know what God is going to do next. It makes it hard to plan and budget. It just becomes so inconvenient to start making plans for God only to have him ask you where you came up with that crazy idea. Acting on God’s behalf is notoriously tricky, even for God’s hand picked aces.

But let’s not be too hard on King David for wanting to build God a house. After all, God had been painstakingly delivering all of David’s enemies and even some enemies’ wives into his hands. It only seemed fitting that God’s house should be at least as nice as David’s (Who better than David to identify with the need to come home, kick back and put your feet up after a long day of sword whetting on Philistine skulls). And really, it’s kind of embarrassing when your house has more bling than your deities’:

“See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” That’s cute David, but the “tent” was God’s idea, the heavens are his footstool and he’s the one building you an eternal kingdom. Yahweh is not high-maintenance.

It’s a good thing kings always eventually figure out how to do God’s will most of the time, otherwise we’d be really fucked.

Advent with Uncle Paul

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 [one act play version]

Uncle Paul [Robed, wizened, jovial, affectionate, lots of white light on him]– Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Earthlings [enough characters to stage an attempted human variety pack. It is recommended that the director choose individual Earthlings for the speaking parts] – That’s what we’re going for down here. It’s just so damn hard with all these effin’ circumstances.

Uncle Paul – Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

Earthlings – Dammit Uncle Paul, that’s just what many of us have been trying so hard to do and get others to do. It’s just that there’s these other people with their other prophets and different definitions of what’s good and evil. Not enough people will get on board.

Uncle Paul [inclining his head to the Earthlings and gesturing to them in blessing]- May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Earthlings – Are we to understand you correctly that the care and flourishing of every spirit and soul and body is of infinite value?

Uncle Paul – Did I not just name him the God of peace himself? The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

[Uncle Paul slowly bows his head and gradually vanishes]

Earthlings [staring desperately at the rapidly vanishing form of Uncle Paul, shouting urgently, looking around at each other and Uncle Paul] – But how will the God of peace himself do this? TELL US HOW THE GOD OF PEACE WILL DO THIS!?

[Scene ends in silence, Earthlings all staring around at each other in bewilderment, palms up. A brief moment passes, curtains close]

Restore the fortunes (Make it great again)

All claims to greatness must pass the Psalm 126 test. There must be more than one witness. The other witness is the consensus of the rest of the planet. Do the Nations also agree that the Lord has done great things for us? If not, our greatness isn’t Psalm 126 greatness:

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream. 2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy. 3 Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” 4 The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed.

With Psalm 126 greatness, us and them agree about what’s great. Since we all share the same round habitat, no one really wins unless everyone wins. That’s because winning at others’ expense is actually losing, kind of like winning a dart game on your own sheetrock. Instead, Psalm 126 pushes us to imagine a dreamlike scenario complete with eruptions of incredulous laughter and blurry-eyed shouts of joy, where the winnings spill over to everyone else.

It does seem like a dream considering the past and present. Now it seems the watercourses of the Negev are flowing with tears. But the exiles had their dream come true and it was a win/win with the known world.

I believe each generation is asked anew to dream of a future that acts more like an upward spiral for the known world than a pyramid scheme for kings. To make dreams come true in a Psalm 126 sort of way. Our Earth has certainly been sown with tears. When do we get to harvest the joy?

Listen to your Mother

According to Mary the mother of Jesus, Christmas is all about public accountability, regime change and wealth redistribution. Here’s her practical application of the first Christmas:

“He has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”

Mary, honestly, some would say that you are over politicizing Christmas and distracting from the true meaning. But for others, I believe your interpretation of Christmas can’t come soon enough. The proud continue to feverishly carve up the remaining resources in their hunger games while procuring tribute from the masses. Maniacal world leaders are still trying to win at the game of thrones while their people are just trying to make a living, or simply live. In their curious preoccupation with making sure no one has any more than they need, the conceited amass more money than most of us would know what to do with. A house of cards.

I believe we should listen more to our young single moms with their empire-shattering faith hope and love. I would feel much safer with them in charge.

Mary, your vision for the planet is exceedingly greater than ours. It’s not just great, it’s magnificent. May it be done as you say, and may all generations call you blessed.

Comfort, my planet II

If at any point in your life you’ve ever experienced unconditional love from anyone, you’re probably going to pull through this. Even if you have to endure some pretty brutal shit. I believe when someone loves you unconditionally they deposit within you an endless spring that continues to water you for the rest of your life even when you don’t realize it. Even if you didn’t realize you were being unconditionally loved when it happened.

I think this is the way the Hebrew prophet Isaiah felt about his deity: “For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.” (Isaiah 61.11)

For all their faults, deities seem to be ace at getting people to feel unconditionally loved.

I believe that’s because unconditional love is our way of unleashing divinity on each other.

See here for more about what Isaiah and some other ancient Jews thought about what happens to people who get loved unconditionally.

 

Comfort, my planet.

Isaiah 40:1-2

Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord‘s hand double for all her sins.

Thank you Isaiah for these much needed words. Indeed we have paid out enough suffering to placate and satiate the whole damn pantheon. Obviously we have created enough to worry about down here without the threat of some angry deity coming down to make us pay more. After all, we’re like grass, not around very long, and we’ve got valleys that need filling, hills to climb and roads to fix.