Non-Religious Christian Spirituality

what god wants

I’ve often heard pastors and televangelists talking about what God wants. What he wants us to do or feel or say or [mostly] give. I’ve always thought it fairly presumptuous to claim to know what God wants from our perch on the little blue ball way over there on that edge of the second galaxy to the right…but then I hear myself asking a study group what they thought God’s highest value is, and when they don’t come up with exactly what was in my head, telling them exactly what was. And if my hypocrisy didn’t sink in at the moment, the next week one of the attendees pulled me aside to say that he’d related the exchange to another pastor who told him that it was pretty presumptuous to think I had any idea of God’s highest value. Karma is a witch.

Is what God wants and his highest value the same thing? I guess we can suppose God would also want his highest value, but I think there’s a distinction as well. For at least four thousand years, Hebrews have been rubbing up against the God they have shared with us for the last two thousand, and all that experience impressed on them one outstanding feature: Hear oh Israel, the Lord your God is ehhad–one. Or better translated, multiple things functioning as one–a unity. When Moses encounters the burning bush and asks who it is that speaks from the flames, the answer in Hebrew is hayah asher hayah, or I am [that, which, what, that, when, where, how, because, in order that] I am. Asher is the original multipurpose device. Moses’ God is calling himself pure existence, pure being, pure presence–a presence like gravity pulling all things into itself, into unity.

When Jesus was asked to identify himself, he said over and over that he and the Father were one. That no one needed to see the Father because they could see him and that everything he did was only because it already had been done by the Father. Unity is the four thousand year long thread that runs through the expression of the experience of our God. And so I presume that if unity is God’s preminent feature and function, that it must be his highest value as well, his will. His will be done, unity be done. Is that what he wants? The difficulty lies in the way we ask..what God wants.

It may well be presumptuous to ask what God wants. How could we possibly know? But I don’t think it’s at all presumptuous to ask how God wants. Turns out that God’s most distinguishing feature, the one that changed the course of the Hebrew nation and the world’s history, is not a what at all–not an outcome or event or object; it’s a how: a way, a process with attitude, a motivating characteristic or essence. With the right how, any what will do. With the right how, we can face our own burning bush moments with the trust that only unity–multiple things functioning as one–can muster. That’s a distinction worth making, an expression of an experience worth presumption.

Message delivered @ theeffect, 5/6/12. Here for audio message.

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