I remember one morning in Seminary, I was sitting at the kitchen table, saying Morning Prayer. The Psalm for the day was Psalm 46. When I got to the line, “Be still and know that I am God”, I froze. I could not go on with the rest of the psalm or the prayers. I don’t know how long I sat there hearing and feeling deep in my body, “Be still and know that I am God”. I guess I get points for obeying that day. I was certainly still, and I knew at least for the time I sat at my kitchen table, that God was indeed, God.
I have to be reminded fairly frequently, that God is God and I am not. There are so many things in this world that I want to shake my fist and say to God, “would you please DO something about this?” There have been times when I have questioned God’s presence and God’s investment in the world we live in. When I was a child and I took catechism class, I remember the book we used said something to the effect of, “God is everywhere and in everything”. There were pictures of flowers and butterflies to illustrate the point. But life isn’t filled with flowers and butterflies all that often. And so, I find myself asking, “where are you” and sometimes “who are you?”
In our lessons today we have some images that seem to contradict each other. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, Paul says that Jesus “ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible”. That certainly speaks of a Jesus who is all powerful and all knowing – God from whom all things were made – as our creed says and Paul seems to be saying. Now, that image seems “king like” to me, or perhaps even more powerful than an image of a king. It certainly feels Godly to me; as in a God who set the whole thing in motion and who is responsible for our being here. And, perhaps there is some comfort to be found there – a “knowing” that God is bigger than we can imagine, a God who is distant and may or may not care about each of us as individuals.
And then, we have our lesson from Luke this morning. When I read just the first sentence about arriving at Golgatha, I felt physical dread at the idea of having to read further. This image of Jesus, the one who is Emmanuel, God with us, this God who became human in Jesus, is on the throne that no king could ever want – a throne of wood and spikes, a throne of suffering and of death. Certainly not an image of a king, unless you are God.
“Be still and know that I am God”. Those words, taken with the lesson from Luke are both powerful and heartbreaking. People yelling at Jesus to save himself; one of those being crucified with him seems to understand that Jesus has done nothing wrong. That criminal is rewarded and comforted by Jesus… “Truly I tell you…today you will be with me in paradise…” Even there while he is dying, Jesus reaches out to another to give him comfort and hope – and not just any other, but someone we know is a criminal. Yet even the criminal can see that Jesus is king of God’s kingdom, and he asks to be remembered there… he will not only be remembered, he will be able to be there with Jesus – his sins forgiven and the chasm that separates him from God is once and forever destroyed – because of Jesus. Even though this criminal shall die, Jesus will conquer death and the grave for him and for all of us. Today, he will be with Jesus in paradise.
Be still and know that I am God. As I continue to think on these powerful words, I am reminded of the life of God in Jesus. It is a human life; a life filled with joy and with sadness. It is a life lived by God so that you and I would never be separated from God again. Remember those questions I asked earlier? Where was God, who is God, would you please do something about this situation?
Be still and know that I am God. As I have listened to others’ experiences, and as I have lived my own spiritual life, I realized something. God HAS done something, God has acted in our world for the good of all. God became incarnate; which means that Love has walked the earth, the very earth that God loves and gave his life for. When I get to wondering where God is, I can know that God is right there in the middle of it with me, even in the darkest places. God is the one who lived in Jesus and took all of our pain and our suffering onto himself on a cross at Golgotha. While occupying that throne with a criminal on his left and on his right, all creation was made new. Death no longer could have the last word. Sins were forgiven, and we have been told that one day the dead shall be raised. That is the only King any of us need. He is a King who gives freely of his very life without asking for anything in return. At the same time, he is a King who requires everything we have so that everyone he loves might realize his Kingdom here on earth. We must love our neighbors as He loves them. Lord, let your Kingdom come, let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.