Father Larson Homily Page
September 25th, 2021
Did you ever wonder where humanity got the notion that there was such a thing as a divinity, some powerful, mystical force that dwells somewhere beyond our ordinary human experience. The oldest parts of our Bible were written down only about a thousand years before the time of Jesus, and people believed in the realm of the gods long before that. In fact it appears that every ancient people or tribe believed in some sort of world inhabited by the gods.
Certainly powerful human experiences that they couldn’t explain, like birth, death, the blessings in the world around them, even natural disasters, led people to conclude that there must be some powerful force that was responsible for these things, and who could bring meaning to them. And that was how religions were born.
Then people began to do three things with their belief in the gods or the one God.
First they thought it important to try to contain God, to arrange a place for God to dwell among the people.
And so people began to have sacred caves, or temples, or churches, where folks could go to meet God and speak with him and to offer sacrifices.
Even today we might refer to a church as “the house of God.”
Then once God is located in a sacred space or building, the next step is to try to decide what God is like.
Not knowing what God is like, people began to create God into their image and likeness.
They gave God names and a human gender and other familiar human traits.
Many of us today can’t help picturing God as an elderly male with a long white beard, and a long white robe, sitting on a throne, surrounded by angels and lots of clouds.
And we assigned to God all our human emotions, so that God can be happy or sad, listening carefully or inattentive, be even angry, jealous or full of wrath.
Then once we have located God and described what God is like, the third step is that we humans began to decide what God should or should not do.
We figured out what God’s proper behavior ought to be.
We saw some of that in the readings today.
At the time of Moses seventy-two people were to receive God’s special gift of preaching, but two on the list didn’t show up for the ceremony, but those two went out and preached anyway - and people began to complain.
The point, of course, is that no human can regulate Gods activity by making a list or scheduling a ceremony of some sort.
We see it happen in the gospel as well.
John complains to Jesus that somebody is doing ministry in
Jesus’ name, but he doesn’t belong to our group.
But Jesus says God’s work is not confined to any special group.
When we search through the Bible we discover many attempts on the part of the biblical authors to explain to us that God cannot be confined to any space, that God cannot be corralled into a temple or church.
Rather God is everywhere, but also beyond everywhere.
God cannot be adequately described using human language. God is beyond description.
Any frail human attempt to describe God is really to limit God.
God is not one special being among other beings, but God is the very ground of being and existence.
God is not a super-parent living among the clouds, but a divine force that is to be found deep within us, around us and beyond us.
And God’s actions cannot be controlled by our human efforts. Even prayer does not manipulate God into doing this or that, simply because we said our prayers properly.
God acts in a way utterly beyond our ability to understand.
So the scriptures tell us, in the words of Isaiah and St. Paul, “No one knows the thoughts of God...”
And Paul also says, God is
“immortal and lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see... O the depth and the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgements, and how unsearchable his ways!”
Anne Osdieck: Poet...
Seventy elders all together in the tent received the spirit.
To Joshua’s dismay seventy-two elders began to prophesy to all in the camp.
But, Holy Spirit, it is not our rules that you abide by.
We can’t harness you or hem you in, or say “You can’t go there” or “You wouldn’t dare do that.”
Like the wind, you go where you will, and we hear the sound of the breeze you make, and we do not know where it comes from or where it goes.
So we ask you for this, at least: let us welcome your sweet breath within us.