• Steven Marsh

Participating in God’s Story-God is Great and Good: a Reflection on Lamentations 3:19-26, Lame

Pope Francis views God being great and good. He, like Jeremiah the writer of Lamentations, has courage to believe in and live out God’s greatness and goodness. Pope Francis is concerned that the message of Christianity has become obscured by ecclesiastical moralism.[1] Citing Pope Francis, “The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives.”[2]

God is great and good. And the childhood prayer that many of us said at meals confirms that: “God is great, God is good; let us thank him for our food. Amen.” Yet we hear radical Islamists chanting in Arabic, “God is great!” after acts of terrorism. We live in a world where horrendous suffering persists and we have difficulty holding together the words great and good in relationship to God. God does not fit into our categories of what is great and good. God is self-existent and independent from us. God is undivided and God’s attributes are identical with God’s being. God is unchanging. God transcends our categories of time, space and freedom. God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. And, God is Creator and we are creation.[3]

The suffering with which the 21st century began and continues to display resonates with the Babylonian captivity of Judah. Think of the global genocides, bombings, and school massacres. Suffering at any level begs a theological explanation. What is the relationship between God, who is great and good, with suffering? The texts in Lamentations remind us there are times to be silent, break the silence, and protest the suffering. Silence, breaking silence, and protesting are professions of faith and an affirmation that God not only permits such atrocities, but ordains them. In such an affirmation of faith we proclaim God’s sovereignty and rest in God using suffering as a means for a greater end.[4] 2 Timothy 1instructs us that seeing persons of all ages come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord is to be our greatest joy. And Luke 17 admonishes us never to have faith in faith, but to keep faith rooted in the One we believe in. Faith in Christ should mirror the faith of Christ.[5]

God’s story is about salvation; personal and societal. We participate in God’s story by being faithful to God. God’s story connects humanity to God and humans to one another. Connecting to God and others is what community is all about. A fundamental definition of politics is to form community. Parker Palmer writes this about politics, “It is the ancient and honorable human endeavor of creating a community in which the weak as well as the strong can flourish, love and power can collaborate, and justice and mercy can have their day.”[6]

As Geneva transforms into a missional congregation, we continue to organize and mobilize ourselves around the five expectations for members and regular attenders of our faith community: worshipping – are you worshipping regularly? Learning – How are you maturing your faith? Connecting – Are you in community with God and others? Serving – What’s the ONE THING you can do to expand God’s Reign? And, Giving – Are you participating financially on a regular basis? These five expectations are key to faithful stewardship of one’s life. In-Gathering Sunday is two weeks away.

Connecting is the third of five expectations Geneva has of its members and regular attenders. It is integral for our church identity of “Loving God. Loving Others.” Connecting – Are you in community with God and others? What? – We need to be in relationship with God and others. God made human in order to have companionship and desires each of us to have companionship with God as well as with others. Where? – We can connect with God through faith and others in simple conversation, profound “burden-bearing,” laughter, tears, and spending time together around food and leisure. Why? – We want to be saved, needed, appreciated, and valued. It is good not to be lonely, but to have God and others to walk with through the highs and lows of life.

When suffering makes you question whether God is great or good, connect to God and others by casting yourself totally on God; for God alone can save us. On this World Communion Sunday, once again, in eating the bread and drinking the cup with Christians around the world, we identify and connect with the suffering of Jesus and declare that God is great and good even in times of suffering.

Participating in God’s story proves that God is great and good even in the bad and ugly of life. By connecting to God and others we experience that God is great and good. That is good news.

[1]Michael Gerson, “Francis the troublemaker” in the Washington Post September 24, 2013.

[2]Ibid.

[3]Many of these biblical truths about God are noted and discussed further in Michael Horton, Core Christianity (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2016), 55.

[4]See Donald Musser for further insight in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 4 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 122, 124, and 126.

[5]See Margit Ernst-Habib in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 4, 140, 142, and 144.

[6]Parker Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit (Jossey-Bass, 2011), 8.

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