Rev’d Michael Smart
Your will be Done…. what kind of events or occurrences’ do you associate with God’s will?
It would be an arrogant person who would claim to know 100% what is or is not God’s will….but here are just a few true examples for you to evaluate….
A little child fell into a swimming pool and drowned….when I met with the family they coped with this tragedy, by saying; “ it must be God’s will”.
My brother and his wife had two miscarriages, then the third child lived a few hours, then the fourth child was born with water on the brain….their Vicar at the time, told them “ God wants little ones in heaven”
A husband and father slipped and fell while climbing in our southern alps….his widow asked me, with some feeling; “ why has God taken him from us “
An earthquake kills hundreds and many families cope with their grief by saying “ we must learn to accept God’s will”
After month as a locum in an Anglican Church in Taormina, Sicily, Janine and I landed at the airport in Istanbul just an hour after the gun and bomb attack took place in June..our plane had been delayed an hour leaving Sicily. People said to us…” thank God you were late..it wasn’t your time. ” What about the 43 people killed and the hundred injured ? I am not a fatalist, who thinks everything is predetermined by God’s Will.
All kinds of events, good and evil are attributed to God….if what some people understand as God’s will is true, then I am not going to pray so readily “ Your will be done”
As we heard in the reading from Colossians (1: 15 and 19) St Paul writes, with regard to Jesus, “ He is the image of the invisible God…in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” Being Christian means we understand God’s character and God’s will through Jesus Christ…..adding “ through Jesus Christ” to the end of our prayer is not a way of ensuring the prayer is heard…but, a declaration , that the God we pray to is the God we understand, through the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. If Jesus is wrong, then our understanding of God is wrong..if Jesus is not from God, then we are in the dark and without a light to guide us…then the Isis fighters who murder and rape as an expression of God’s will might be right.
We seek to understand God’s will through the life of Jesus….for example, when did Jesus make anyone sick…yet sadly people have done and still do say that illness is God’s will…..when did Jesus push a child under a passing chariot and do that in God’s name…yet sadly, accidents to children are said by some to be God’s will.
Even as we kneel before Jesus on the cross…..do we think that his unjust execution was God’s will….Before his death, in the garden Jesus prayed “ not my will but yours be done” .. was Jesus accepting his murder/execution as God’s will….
There are a range of views as to how God is involved on the cross, and one view only may not do justice to “God’s work in Christ” however, I put it to you, that it is not the murder/execution of Jesus, that is God’s will, but how Jesus responds to human evil does reveal God’s will… “ Father forgive them” .. that is the will of God….
Jesus, as he taught us, continues to love his enemies…now, that is the will of God. Jesus prays, “Your will be done” … it is God’s will that Jesus shows forth upon the cross a display of God’s love..a quality of love that will, if taken into human hearts, change the world….it is God’s will that endless cycles of revenge and cry for each others blood is halted and replaced with forgiveness and reconciliation…Jesus is to set forth the nature of God by how he responds to evil and human sin…”put up your sword”…..that is God’s will.
Police and protestors in the USA..” put up your guns”..there is a better way.
To forgive does not mean evil has not happened, ..forgiveness is not saying “ it doesn’t matter”. A woman in her 60’s struggled to unload to me the burden she had carried since her childhood, when abused by her father. “ I know you will tell me I should forgive him, but what he did has so damaged my life “ . To forgive is part of our healing, it is not approving the wrong done to us. After apartheid in South Africa, they have held Truth and Reconciliation meetings….reconciliation is only possible when the offending party or group admit they have need of forgiveness..admit the truth of their evil action and ask forgiveness…in this process retribution or revenge is not the aim, reconciliation is the aim….not my pound of flesh, but restoring the relationship. If I hold onto bitterness, seek only revenge, I am destroyed, so I choose to forgive as this is God’s will to avoid my being eaten up with resentment…if held onto it will make me sick emotionally and sometimes physically. Reconciliation with the other person or nation is only possible when they accept the evil they have done , repent and seek to be reconciled and we extend the nail pierced hands of love.
God’s will is not the death of Jesus as if death of itself will save the world….what will save the world, you and me personally and the nations of the world, is love that forgives and seeks reconciliation with the enemy.
The prophet Amos thunders against those whose only aim in life is to make money, no matter what the means, no matter who is neglected or run over in the process… all they want to do is get church out of the way on Sunday and get back to their business deceit on Monday….Amos protests telling God’s people such practices and neglect of the poor and needy is not God’s will and that God will take action against them. ( Amos. 8:1-11)
In the light of Jesus life and teaching we must still retain this Old Testament understanding of God’s good will being expressed in how we do our business and attend to social justice and fairness …that remains..what we might change is our understanding as to how God acts in this world when people are corrupt and lacking compassion. Some would say God actively intrudes in events, even causing economic collapse or causing famine..so such events are seen as God punishment or warnings…. Others however, would say, there is cause and effect in human choices and some consequences follow from human will, but God works to touch the hearts and minds and will of humans, urging us to think and act in harmony with his will as seen in Jesus .
As the cross makes clear, we can reject God’s ways, we can shut out his cry into our hearts….we can crucify him again and again if human will reigns and Gods will is not done on earth.
So it matters what people believe. In the name of tolerance we must not accept what is evil…the character and will of the god people choose to worship makes a profound difference…not all views of God are equal, some are dangerous and will bring hell not heaven on earth .
Jesus, speaks to Martha, (10: 38-42) and tells her…..first listen to me, understand my teachings. Any hostess will laugh at the thought of just sitting down for a bible study when guests are coming for dinner..distractions indeed! Jesus is not being impractical, rather he is speaking of priorities. In your life, like Mary choose to absorb my way into your heart and mind, sit at my feet and learn the ways and will of God, then as you get on with the practicalities and reality of life with its many choices, then you will do so according to God’s will.