"God of the Gaps"
The Reverend George C. Wong Sermon
The Fifth Sunday in Lent, 21 March 2021, Hebrews 5:5-10“Mind the gap.” Most will recognize the distinctly British phrase. The recorded message reminds subway riders to watch out for the open space between the platform and the train.
Reading this week’s Epistle and with the horrific events of this week on my mind, I had a picture of a different kind of gap, not between a platform and a train, but a gap that imperils and threatens not merely our physical bodies, but our very life here and beyond.
I am talking about the yawning gap between the world we inhabit and the world that God envisioned at creation.
The news of the hate-filled murders in Atlanta and countless other racially motivated attacks around the country streamed onto my computer screen. Even when I tried to shut out such news out of fatigue and despair, such news seemed to find its way to me. The impact of the news testifying to this gulf can be discouraging and disheartening.
Christians have long noted the existence of such a chasm. St. Augustine described the City of Man and the City of God. The earthly city was characterized by strife and evil, and the City of God was characterized by peace and the eternal truths of God. Ultimately, the City of God will triumph, but the contest is fierce and all consuming, essentially he wrote that the battle lines are drawn between good and evil.
Like Augustine, I see that the gap between so much around me and the City of God. At times, it seems like the City of Man is winning. Our text from the book of Hebrews describes Jesus as a member of the royal priesthood of the order of Melchizedek. In this role, Jesus mediates between God and man, and intercedes on our behalf.
As the mediator between heaven and earth, Jesus bridges the gap between our world and the world that should be, one definitely more heavenly in nature and character.
It is comforting that Jesus is our high priest and mediator, and came to give his all for us. But the fact that Jesus acts in this role begs questions about the nature of God, given that Jesus was not spared suffering and death even though he prayed fervently and was without sin.
Why did God allow Jesus to suffer and die?
Is God a cruel, masochist that demands the suffering of others including his own Son?
These questions seem to make sense but it helps to view the suffering of Jesus from another point of view, which helps us see God not as cruel but as one who would do anything for us, anything include suffer for and alongside us.
As the one who came to mediate between our reality and the heavenly reality, Jesus did not opt to stand apart and help us from a safe distance.
Instead of minding the gap, Jesus jumped fully into the gap, into harm’s way, with us.
God surely could have stood apart and away from distance. God had and has that power and ability. God chose to be in solidarity with each of us. God chose to be in harm’s way for us.
And, it was a costly decision, which meant the painful death of Jesus, a fate that even he initially wanted to avoid.
It was also a decision by God that revealed to us the true character of God. God who is all powerful is also self-giving, full of compassion is also willing to adopt a posture of humility, lowliness and endure suffering for our sake.
Jesus is not the distant mediator, a remote figure, but an in the trenches mediator, who got down in the muck with us. In this ongoing mediation, we have a part to play—an essential part which will determine if such a mediation will work. Many a mediation has fallen apart when there is no sincere effort to bridge a gap by all parties involved.
God has shown faithfulness to us by going into the gap for us in the person of Jesus. But, Jesus needs our help and cooperation. God will not force us to cooperate.
We must make the decision to participate in our own healing and reconciliation with God.
When we do that, we will experience the peace which passes all understanding and we will experience life in the community of the beloved.
God loves us each and all.
God has and will continue to do everything possible to create the conditions for our healing and wholeness. But we need to meet God with our own desire for healing and wholeness. God will not wave the magic wand over us ever.
Our participation is a big reason that it is so important in Lent to take on a posture of humility, remorse for what we have done and what we have failed to do, forgiveness for others and to amend of our lives. We signal our decision to turn to God by being active participants in worship, prayer, study of scripture, mediation, reflection and holy conversation about things which separate us, like racial hatred.
In these ways, we become better able to be inspired by the Spirit to close that chasm between this world and the hope and of world that is yet to fully emerge, infused with the Peace that passes all understanding.
As that particularly British subway recording says with unintended meaning beyond the underground: “ mind the gap.”
Watch out for the pitfalls of the City of Man and all its distractions and allures. They are glittery and compelling and catch our attention and eyes. But, it is important to remember that if we fall into the pit, that Jesus has been there in the depths praying out to God. He knows us. Jesus gets us. Jesus sees us as we are.
Augustine wrote speaking of the fork in the road that we all eventually face: “if he had remained firm with the help of God, he would receive his merited reward.”
Called to persevere and to fight the good fight, if we make the decision to turn towards Jesus who gave his all for us, he will bridge that gap for us and we will be given a taste of the eternal life here and then taste it fully in the City of God, the home God longs for us to live and thrive in.
The Fifth Sunday in Lent, 21 March 2021, Hebrews 5:5-10
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George C. Wong
is the Rector