This may look like an ordinary shoe box. But it isn’t. It is a God Box & we all have one.
The God Box is our understanding of the one who created us. It is those experiences we have had with the divine that have touched us. It is the studies we have done. The prayers we offered. It is our faith.
The God Box is neither good nor bad, it is our way of trying to comprehend the ground of our being, of our connection to creation and one another. Of Jesus in the midst of us…
The problem with our God boxes is that we like them neat and tidy and with the cover on. Its safe and secure, God in our grasp but as Deacon Christopher beautifully pointed out last week, our God is not safe, but good…
Moses learned that. Leading his father in laws flock in the wilderness, Moses on Mount Horeb comes to a burning bush; it was aflame but it was not consumed. And God spoke to him… I suspect that was not in his God box… It shattered his understanding and God called him from the bush and would send him to Egypt to free the Israelites from their bondage.
Moses tries to persuade God that he is not the right choice, but God insists and tells Moses to let the Israelites know that “The God of your ancestors has sent him.” And Moses went to Egypt… and Moses understanding and experience of God changed and so to his God box changed.
As Jesus was walking along, people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices, others were thinking about the tower of Siloam that fell and killed 19. Many in that day (and today!) believed that pain and premature death were signs of God’s judgment. There must be a reason that happened! And their God box spoke of judgment and sin and reason. But Jesus said, No. No
They were not more sinful. They did not deserve such a death. Some were murdered. Others were killed in an accident. It is tragedy.
Jesus wants us to get out of that God Box, don’t think about their sin, worry about your own. Repent. Change your ways, he says.
And to illustrate his point, Jesus tells us a parable about a barren fig tree. The owner wants it cut down for wasting the soul because it has not produced anything for three years, but the gardener says to let it be, while the gardener tries again to help it produce fruit.
As a parable about the Kingdom of God, Jesus is reminding us that we are to produce such good fruit, fruit that comes out of repentance, that is born in a life lived fully. Jesus is the divine gardener who is looking to help our barren lives produce, the one who breaks out of our box to push us to bear fruit.
If we spend our times worrying about others for their supposed sin, pointing out where God has acted against them, we will miss God really acting in the world through us & others. We will not be bearing that good fruit.
And in the midst of tragedy, whether caused by the Pilate’s of our world who murder others, or in natural acts when earth shakes and towers fall, we are called to live into our faith.
And our faith commits us to showing up, not ignoring the suffering and not saying there is a reason, its a God’s will or anything else. When Job’s three friends sat with him on the dung heap after the calamity happened to his family, they did the right thing. And then they started to talk, big mistake!, about how sinful Job & his family were, they talked out of their God box which didn’t help Job nor were they right about God.
We are called out of our comfort zones in situations of great pain and we can’t get out of them with a few glib remarks. Moses tried - goodness how he tried to avoid going to a situation of great pain, and of spending the time required to remedy it. But ultimately, he answered God's call and a people were saved.
Miracles do happen, for our mysterious God moves in unexpected ways through our world, and who breaks out of the confines of our boxes and reminds us that God continues to act in unexpected ways, who is always with us, and wants us to move beyond those boxes we grasp so tight.
It takes guts, patience, & love to be open to the movement of God in our lives and in our world, to have our experience of God, our God box, be open and ready to be remade by God all the time. That is the mark of repentance and of good fruit.
For then we are at our best: open and willing to listen to those in need, to those who are suffering and to listen to Christ who will guide us in helping them. That is our calling. Amen.