Praying Through Uncertainty

On May 27, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Praying Through Uncertainty Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Trinity Sunday 2018 Let us dwell together in peace; and let us not be instruments of our own or other people’s oppression. And now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. The doctrine of the Trinity wasn’t codified until 3 centuries after Jesus’ […]

Praying Through Uncertainty
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Trinity Sunday 2018

Let us dwell together in peace; and let us not be instruments of our own or other people’s oppression. And now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

The doctrine of the Trinity wasn’t codified until 3 centuries after Jesus’ death. And in his life, it was doctrine he never taught. As a doctrine, it isn’t taught anywhere in scripture. Rocco Errico once wrote, “God learned about the Trinity in 325 AD.”

So, I won’t be talking about the doctrine of the Trinity today, it being Trinity Sunday notwithstanding. If the doctrine gives you hope or peace or joy, may it continue to do so. If you find the doctrine confusing or onerous, then please don’t give it another thought.

In the cafeteria of religious delicacies, we each are free to take what delights us and allow others to feast upon what they crave. The important thing isn’t that we all eat the same things but that we are all fed. I trust that if you are open to experiencing God, you will experience God in the ways that are right for you.

Isaiah had a powerful experience of God which we read about earlier.
The king has died. That has probably left uncertainty and anxiety in the nation. A time of national anxiety is a perfect time for an encouraging vision. During a worship experience, Isaiah has such a vision. He imagines God on a throne.

Throne represents power. When the powerkeepers of the world are missing or deficient or corrupt, there is a power that is pure, that will not be tainted by politics or power struggles. When everything is in shambles, God is still with us, even in the mess. And that is comforting.

And in that moment, thinking about how good God is, Isaiah feels inadequate. He wants to do something for God, but, what can he do? God has everything, is everything, is everywhere, is the Substance of all that is, as Isaiah points out with images of God’s robe filling the temple and God’s glory filling the earth. He as much as says, “There’s not a spot where God is not.”

God is All, and in All, and is infinitely good. And that begs an Alleluia! But it can also be humbling.
God is in me, so why am I sometimes afraid?
God is everywhere, so why do I ever expect failure?
God is love, so how can we who worship God be so unloving to the poor, the sick, the dispossessed, the vulnerable, the marginalized?

To think of God’s goodness and to think of the ways we deny that goodness, well, it can bring what the Pentecostals used to call a sense of “conviction.” We see we’ve missed the mark and we want to up our game not only for God but also for the sake of our own humanity.

Isaiah considers his insecurities, his mistakes, the times he was unkind, unloving, untruthful, unfair…he’s been a mess a time or two.
But then, in his daydream anyway, angels touch him, and tell him he’s worthy. His higher thoughts, the better angels of his nature, remind him that God isn’t limited by Isaiah’s learning curve. Oh, sure, he’s screwed up a few times. PS, he’ll screw up again. It doesn’t matter. Isaiah still has something to offer.

If Isaiah is willing to believe that God can use him even when he’s not his best…if he’s willing to have faith that God can use him to do things that seem impossible or unlikely or unconventional, well what the heck!, it’s God and its faith and its miracles and the future has infinite possibilities, so…

Here I am God! Send me! Use me.

Isaiah will later use the image of a cut down, burned up stump…but from that stump, a tender green shoot will emerge. It’s never hopeless. It’s never too late.

Isn’t that the Resurrection message. Golgotha sucks. But it’s not the end of the story.

Isn’t that the Pentecost message? We were afraid and hiding and frozen with despair, but we got a second wind and conquered our fears and took the world by storm.

Isn’t that the Jesus story? His not yet married mother is pregnant with him and her fiancé isn’t the father. His story starts out in scandal. After he’s born his family become refugees in Egypt. Jesus is a poor, Afro-Palestinian Jew (an important fact to remember in a time when racism is rampant). He’s temporarily homeless (born in a barn) and spent part of his childhood as a refugee in Egypt. His life was ended when he was executed by the state as a insurrectionist.

And yet, THAT is who we call ”Lord” and we insist that even his execution isn’t the end of his story or his significance or his influence or his mission. It’s never over and the winds of renewal are ever ready to bring forth a miracle. Even when all that’s left is a burnt stump, a tender green shoot can emerge from it and new life is up and running.

Isaiah wasn’t certain that he could answer the call to ministry, but he prayed through it and said, “In spite of my uncertainty, use me. Send me. If you trust me, God, I’ll definite try to trust you.”

People are uncertain today.
Our hearts break as we learn that almost 1500 children have been taken from their families and lost in the system. I mean LOST. We don’t know where they are. We cannot vouch for their safety. I can’t even imagine the fear or the lifelong pain caused to parents and children by this travesty. I cannot with certainty say when or how this will be resolved…but we can pray until it is, and we ask God to use us to be part of the solution.

Whether it’s the Black Lives Matter movement, or the Poor People’s Campaign trying to stir the conscience of a nation, or the Reclaiming Jesus movement (which is reclaiming Jesus from those who have weaponized Jesus and used him against women’s autonomy, used him to promote war, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and used him to bless policies that punish rather than aid the poor)…people are daring to say to that which they hold Sacred, “Here I am, send me!”

Praying, and then being willing to be the answers to our prayers…that is the biblical model for toppling tyranny.
As the Apostle Paul wrote, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but through God they are mighty to the pulling down of strongholds.”

In our fear we sometimes want to put on the breaks, retreat, pull back, clamp down, trim, hoard, hide…but let’s push past that fear. May angels touch us and remind us that God can use us and miracles are still possible, especially if we will pray, “Here I am, God; use me.”

During a time of anxiety and uncertainty, Isaiah imagined an omnipresence that would never and could never let us go. He imagined even from disaster a shoot of hope breaking through. And he dared to pray, “Use me. I’m willing, and I want to be part of miracles.”

That’s a prayer that worked for Isaiah. I’m betting it will work for us, and this is the good news. Amen.

Holy God,
Use me.
I am willing.
I want to be part of miracles.
Amen.

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