Tuesday, July 5, 2016

How Much Does God Do?/How Much Does God Not Do? July 3, 2016 sermon

Rev. George Miller
2 Kings 5:1-14
July 3, 2016

Today’s message is dedicated to a very dear person who is experiencing personal suffering, and they are asking “Why? Why is God doing this?” and “Why is God allowing this?”

Our scripture is a story we heard Jesus talk about just a few months before.

It’s the story of a Gentile named Naaman, a mighty warrior for the enemy army who is living with a disease. A young Jewish slave girl tells his wife that there is a prophet who can cure him.

Through a series of events, the mighty warrior meets kings and messengers; he is reprimanded by his employees and bathes in the Jordan waters.

Through a series of events in which he is healed outwardly, Naaman comes to know the God of his enemies, and he leaves for home, changed in more ways than one.

This is a story in which we can spend a full week on each and every character, but today we will talk about God.

2 Kings 5 is a scripture that breaks open the very pre-conceived notions we may have about God.

Who does God care about?

What is God able to do?

Where does God act, move, dwell?

When does God do what God does?


How much does God really do?

Over the last 7 years I’ve personally come to embrace the freedom of God- the notion that God is free, beyond our control, and can’t be placed in a box or limited by our human constructs.

This notion gives me a great sense of peace although it leaves very little room for concrete answers.

Over the past 7 years I’ve come to the place in which I believe that God does way less than we give God credit for, AND God does way more than we give God credit for.

I believe there are things we attribute to God that God had no part in whatsoever, and there are things in which God’s fingerprint is all over and we fail to notice.

Each of us have our own spiritual development which we go through and no one ever, ever has the full grasp of the who, what, where, when, why and how of God.

There are those who think that God is in control of everything, and everybody, and all events. That everything that happens is a direct result of God.

This is all well and wonderful when good things happen. A sunny day! The right amount of rain! The winning lottery ticket!

Give God praise!

But when something bad or evil happens?

Then the torment begins.

If God controls everything then why did this horrible thing happen?

We want so desperately to believe that God controls all things, knows all things, does all things, because then at least we can imagine there is a sense of order and meaning to the bad and evil events in our lives.

When something unpleasant happens, a person may think “Is God trying to punish me?”

Or they may think “Is God using this to teach me something?”

Or “Maybe God is trying to humble me.”

Or “God must have made this happen for the greater good.”

Try telling any of those things to someone who’s been diagnosed with AIDS, or was in a car accident, or a child in chemo, or the people at the Turkish airport, or the Bangladesh café.

And see how good God is then.

And if any of these things are truly true, then what about grace? What about forgiveness? What about Jesus dying on the cross and Christ’s resurrection?

Can a God full of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and eternal love also be a God who gives children cancer, the elderly pain, and terrorists an opportunity to kill?

Or is there the chance that bad, evil things…just happen?

That the simple randomness of biology allows for cells to mutate? That wild animals kept in cages or in a lake will attack? That skies rain and floods occur?

That angry people mishandle guns? That politicians make poor choices? That by their very nature, mechanical objects fail and fall apart?

Does any of this have to indicate that God was the cause behind it? Or that someone was so sinful they deserved it?

Or is it possible that God is able to work through bad and evil events, and that God is able to take even the bleakest of moments and make it transformable?

Is it possible that God does not inflict physical pain on a person, but God will find a way to reach out to them?

Is it possible that God does not give cancer to a child, but that God can work through doctors, nurses, and researchers to find cures and bring healing?

Is it possible that God does not give a madman a gun to shoot up a gay nightclub, an airport, or a café, but God can cause communities across the country to come together in acts of unity and to raise their voice?

Isn’t that some of what we encounter in today’s reading?

How God worked through a Jewish slave girl who was captured during war, she who would’ve been considered the lowest of the low.

How God worked through a Syrian king to continue the process of Naaman’s healing.

How God worked through a prophet. How God worked through messengers. How God worked through servants. How God worked through water.

Note that in this story, at any time, any of the characters could have acted differently, and if they had, Naaman’s blessing would not have occurred.

And that at no point do we see God going it alone or controlling people like puppets.

So let me ask you- how much do you think God controls what goes on in this world? How much do you think God controls your life?

How much credit do you give God when things go good? How much blame do you bestow upon God when things go bad?

How much do we allow for magic and mystery?

How much do we place on the freedom of God, and on our freedom of choice?

How much do we place the cause of events on things like biology, society, science, and ourselves?

I also wonder- at what point do we start accepting the fact that we are imperfect mortals living in an imperfect mortal world?

And when do we, as society, as a church, start actually talking about and accepting certain realties?

We place so much responsibility, credit, and blame on God.

And we love to ask the question “Why, God why?”

We ask “why?” because we have yet to accept the fact that we are all designed to grow older and to age.

We ask “why?” because we have yet to accept the fact that everyone will die.

We ask “why, God why?” because we have yet to hold the discussion that 1 in every 4 girls, and 1 in every 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18, and the long-lasting affect this has on individuals, families, and society.

We ask “why?” because we have yet to openly say that 1 in 4 people are living with or affected by mental illness.

We ask “why?” because we have failed to accept the fact that racism still exists in this country and that slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation has left a lasting mark on the American psyche.

We ask “why?” because we have yet to accept the fact that homophobia is real and that almost all members of the LGBT community experience discrimination and hate.

We ask “why?” because we somehow have accepted the fact that women are paid 21% less than men and we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking this is OK.

We ask “why?” because we have yet to acknowledge that radical, militant Christians are capable of doing, and have done, just as much harm as radical, militant Islamists.

We ask “why, God why?” because we won’t admit that we as a nation have problems with violence and guns. And neither side of the issue will accept that there is a middle ground that neither takes away gun owner rights nor easily allows a 4 year-old or 49 people to be shot.

We ask “why?” because we have yet to be real with one another that we each have our own imperfections, shameful secrets, and hidden agendas.

We ask “why?” because we have yet to raise real questions, like “Isn’t there a better, more humane way to care for our elderly Americans?”

We ask “why God, why?” when we should ALL be wondering if there isn’t a way to ensure that when our time comes to be in assisted living or a nursing home,

that we will be guaranteed an end-of-life that is much better than being parked in front of a TV, or in a hallway, and eating flavorless food.

We ask “why, God, why?” because it’s easier to ask God then to march, or protest, or write a letter, or contact our congressman, or to show up at the polling booth.

We ask “why?” because it can be easier and more comforting to say God is all powerful, all knowing, all controlling, then to wrestle with the mystery and the reality that…

…sometimes things just happen, that everyone gets sick, that bad things occur, and that life can be really, really hard…

…but life can also be really, really beautiful, and really, really wonderful…



Why do bad things happen? Why do evil things take place?

When it comes to God, we can ask as much who, what, where, when, why and how that we want.

And we’ll never, ever get all the answers we so desperately hunger for.

God is free. God is mystery. God moves through you, God moves through me.

Do we move as well? Do we listen? Do we act? Do we accept? Do we come together as community, do we pull apart?

How much does God really do that we give God credit for? How much does God do that we don’t give God credit for?

Can we sit with the mystery and accept the unknown, trusting that in Christ we are not alone?

To know that in Jesus, God is always right where we are, mystery and all?

Amen and amen.

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