Our journey depends on what we allow God to do for us

  • December 7, 2011

Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year B) Dec. 18 (2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Psalm 89; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38)

The idea of building a house for God seems rather preposterous. In the verses omitted from the lectionary reading, God tells David in no uncertain terms that he is out of line.

David is sternly reminded that throughout all the years of wandering in the wilderness God never asked for a permanent dwelling and was quite content. We can have mixed motivations for big God-projects. Often lurking below the surface is a subtle desire to play God. The result is usually a hugely inflated ego.

God called to mind David’s humble origins and the ways in which God accomplished so many wonderful things for David during his tumultuous rise to power. David sits on that throne at God’s pleasure rather than his own and apparently his thinking is a bit fuzzy on this issue.

There is a separation of roles: David’s job is to be king and God’s role is to be the protecter of Israel. David would not be allowed to call the shots. God already has an eye on the distant future. In fact, God insisted on building a house for David rather than the other way around.

In this instance “house” refers to a dynasty — descendants. God made a solemn promise that the kingship of Israel would remain in the hands of David’s descendants forever. This was the basis of the Messianic promise to Israel and it would later evolve into an expectation of a Davidic deliverer figure that would restore the kingdom.

But we should remember that the universe itself is God’s home and the only fitting dwelling or house that we can provide for God is the human heart. We should be very cautious of attempting to confine, localize or domesticate God in any way. God is at work in ways that we have not even imagined — far better to be God’s instrument rather than God’s consultant.

The message of the reading is that God’s love is steadfast and eternal — much like the steadfast love of God celebrated by the psalmist.

Paul celebrates the same caring and steadfast love that was working from the foundation of the world to accomplish the salvation of all humanity. This was the hidden mystery finally revealed in Christ: no one is excluded and all are equal before God. This plan was hindered or sidetracked only when human fear, selfishness and lack of love tried to wrench control of the world out of God’s hands. The obedience of faith that Paul refers to is not a creed or doctrine but trust in God and surrender to the divine will.

The Annunciation has inspired centuries of beautiful and moving art. Small wonder — it illustrates the beauty and power of divine creativity, especially when the compassionate will of God encounters an extraordinarily generous human heart and soul. God’s plan for humanity received many setbacks along the way but not in this scene. Mary was not ruled by fear or self-seeking nor did she try to control or manipulate God as so many do. The dwelling place of God would be human flesh — a dwelling place from which God will never depart. Mary’s role is to be both a dwelling place and a channel for the Eternal Word. This is only possible by means of complete openness to God and surrender of the will. Mary does not demand details — when she is reassured that this is from God then acquiescence is her only response.

The language of David’s kingship was again used but this time with a twist. God has certainly kept the promise, but Jesus will be far more than another king in a long dynasty. His is an eternal kingship that embraces all of humanity. Nothing will be impossible with God — if only we would meditate on that daily and believe it in our hearts.

We talk ourselves out of the miraculous by doubt, cynicism, hyper-rationality and the fear of ridicule and rejection by others. Our own faith journey is not as much about what we will do for God but what we will allow God to do with us — even without consulting us.