By now you know the outcome of the Stanley Cup. Did you pray for victory? Did God have anything to do with victory and defeat, whichever team? Does God know or control the future?
In Paul’s fledgling church, Spirit-fire burned with tremendous urgency. Early believers were convinced Christ would be back any day, to be with them body and soul forever in a transformed world. In his early letters, Paul even urged them not to marry, since family would distract them from Christ’s coming.
Late in life, Paul’s letters were more measured. He was disappointed Jesus had not yet walked down the road. By the time he wrote to the Romans, he emphasized how to live day-by-day based on the Hebrew Bible’s one God revealed in Christ.
We’ve been waiting for the Second Coming ever since. Harold Camping is only the latest in a string of Bible students over a millennium who parsed out scripture to calculate history’s start and finish.
But the Bible doesn’t predict. Even Paul did not view prophecy as fortune-telling. Prophets from Amos to Daniel saw clearly not what was to come but what was. They predicted a future not carved in stone, but what would inevitably happen if people continued to ignore injustice towards the widow, the orphan, the stranger. They preached full abundant life here and now, God’s vision for this planet today.
Many Christians see the Bible as a road map, a calendar, a sure-fire picture of what is to come.
Others experience the Word of God in a spirit-infused encounter with scripture. In fact, how we read our sacred text is splitting Christianity in two.
The conflict among Anglicans world-wide is not about sexuality so much as the authority of the Bible (something the United Church wrestled with two decades ago).
In most United Church theology, we understand God not as the great Clockmaker of the universe, remote in the lofty heavens, planning every detail of our lives from conception to after-life. God for us is Spirit active in the world, energizing each cell of creation, calling every creature to the sacred realm of justice and fair sharing. God is not just here beside us but within us, dancing with vitality. As physics teaches, even the rocks quiver with energy, constantly moving.
God cannot predict or control the future. Every moment the holy vision changes as possibilities change, depending on how each creature answers the call of the Spirit and what is possible in that moment. Every moment the Spirit calls us to new life.
In a single moment it is not possible for God to cure cancer. But divine power lies in something more wonderful yet: the Spirit fires a flash of insight in a researcher, or a doctor reading a scan. God’s people praying together help heal and comfort in unexpected ways. God’s power lures us to world peace, sobriety, healing, salvation — one moment, one family, one heart at a time.
In the beginning, the Holy One gave every creature a gift and a curse: Free choice. God doesn’t know how it all will pan out. We say yes or no to the Spirit.
This does not make us powerful. As long as we remain humble enough to let God’s power work through us, in our everyday prayers and actions, we con-spire (breathe together) with the Holy Spirit in bringing God’s vision to life, here and now.
That is the true glory of Holy at work in the world.