God Works; We Work – Rev. Dr. Molly Marshall – Baptist News Global

As our nation celebrated Labor Day, giving attention to the role and dignity of workers, we should also consider the role of human agency in accomplishing divine labor. Theologians always interrogate such things! Surely the work of Christians is more than simply fueling the engine of capitalism; meaningful work also participates in God’s intention for the world. Yet, determining how God is at work in this world is one of the hardest theological challenges.

Think about the urgent crises confronting us. People of faith pray for deliverance, trusting God to hold back the waters of the sea or help them elude their enemies pushing them over the border in Myanmar or rid them of the malignancy growing in their bodies or quell the rising tide of white supremacy. Fervent prayer may not create the conditions for which they pray; however, many continue to trust that God’s providence will prevail. We must ask: through what instrumentality?

Reading narratives of deliverance in Scripture evokes hope for God’s mighty acts to be victorious once again. Many preachers and Sunday school teachers have followed the lectionary texts from Exodus in this extended season after Pentecost. We have noted the trickery of Shiphrah and Puah, the resistance of Pharaoh’s daughter and Miriam, and God’s call of Moses. We have pondered the extended saga of Israel in Egypt, questioning why deliverance was long delayed.

In these early chapters, the writer declares that God has “heard their groaning,” and “remembered God’s covenant,” “seen the misery of the people,” and has “come down to rescue them from the power of Egypt.” The suffering of the people touches the heart of God, although God leans the plans for deliverance upon humans who are themselves part of the oppressed. The means by which God has come down to rescue does not seem very sturdy, and how God will be involved is at question.

God’s commission to Moses is for him to go to Pharaoh and “bring my people out of Egypt.” God’s promise is very simple: “I will be with you,” and the proof that it is truly God who sends him is this: “When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall all worship God here on this mountain” (Exodus 3:12). What? It is only after the liberation is accomplished that Moses will know who propelled him into this high stakes mission? Oh my!

I often hear persons wonder out loud why God does not work in our day as God worked in biblical times. It appears that God does indeed work in the same way, inviting people to shared responsibility for God’s handiwork, which we inhabit and stain and heal. I believe that God is always calling humanity to do the needed holy work and that God is the power behind the actions of those courageous enough to trust God.

In a world where things can go terribly wrong — such as the human evocation of climate change that wreaks havoc — God is using every means to mend creation. The incarnation of Jesus teaches that God’s primary means of conducting redemptive work is through a partnership with humans who were tasked at the beginning to tend God’s handiwork. A long, grinding and luminous history of evolution antedates the human arrival, albeit a particular stewardship is required of those whom God has granted dominion.

Kathryn Tanner reminds us that God works in history at a different level than humans. For Tanner, divine and human agency are not in competition with one another. Because God is not in the same order of being as creatures, God’s power is universally extended and is at work in all things. Thus, there is no zero-sum game that suggests the more God is at work, the less humans can do — and vice versa.

Tanner, rather, points us to a renewed vision of how the incarnation determines how divine and human agency can be at work in the same person, who is a paradigm for how God chooses to accomplish the divine purpose. She calls us to think about God as “gift giver,” who not only imbues the Christ with holy presence to transform the horizon of human hopes, but makes possible human participation in Christ toward the same goal of redemption. Her theological vision that Christ is the key to what God is doing everywhere in the world guides our thinking about how human work and godly work always interface. Through God’s humility, we are always ingredient to saving work.

In times of challenge, trusting that God is at work empowering humans to work for the good of all is reassuring. It also prompts courageous action. While it is common to think that we are waiting on God, actually both God and others are waiting on us.

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Our Trip Out West

Our trip out west was an unbelievable experience. It is a trip I have wanted to make for such a long time. I had thought that the best plan was to visit out of the country places first and then there would be plenty of time to travel our beautiful country. We had some wonderful trips to faraway places we had read about in school. We loved our trips to New York, Chautauqua and San Francisco and New England.

Our trip to Green Lake, Wisconsin last summer gave me the courage to make this trip. My personal travel agent daughter directed us to the Fairfield Inn in Spearfish, South Dakota. It is about 40 miles from Rapid City. This inn has a wonderful breakfast and Rose Mary looked after us like a mother hen. One morning she even had our place set for us.

My goal for years has been to get into every state. On this trip we added four more – South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota. I now know what a prairie looks like. Devil’s Tower in Wyoming was our first national monument. The General Store in Aladdin is 127 years old. There are 15 people in the town. The lady in Baker, Montana bragged about the sparkling condition of her Porto let. The Badlands are spectacular and Crazy Horse is thrilling. Of course, Mt. Rushmore was the most memorable for me. The Vore Buffalo Jump was fascinating. It was Jan’s favorite. Spearfish Canyon is absolutely beautiful. Carol really enjoyed the music both at Mt. Rushmore and the flutist at Crazy Horse. We saw one lone buffalo in Custer State Park.

As always we met wonderful, interesting, friendly people along the way. We meet wonderful people everywhere we go. I have four states left to visit” Iowa, Nebraska, Idaho and Oregon.

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Susan Sparks: An experiment conducted by the Washington Post.

Hi y’all, welcome to the Shiny Side Up! A journal of infectious inspiration that will lift you up, make you smile and leave you stronger.

I heard a story recently about an experiment conducted by the Washington Post. On a cold January morning in 2007, a man posing as a street musician played for commuters in a Washington D.C. Metro Station. Over one thousand people passed by. Six people stopped momentarily. About twenty gave him money. In total, he collected $32. He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded.

Here’s the irony: the man playing was Joshua Bell, one of the world’s most renowned violinists, playing a complex concerto on a $3.5 million dollar Stradivarius.

In life, it is so easy to rush by our blessings. They are all around us — everyday — yet we miss them because we’re focused on our iPhones, our watches, or our to-do lists. We choose busyness over blessings. We would do well to remember the old saying: “Even if you win the rat race, you’re still just a rat in first place.”

This week when you are rushing about, make yourself stop for a moment and look around. Who do you see? What do you hear?  The odds are someone around you is playing beautiful music. The question is . . . will you notice?

Susan is a Baptist minister and the author of, Laugh Your Way to Grace.

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United

Last week I experienced one of my long term dreams. Carol, Jan and I sat in the amphitheater for the light show at Mt. Rushmore. As the patriotic movie drew to a close the audience began singing softly. “America the Beautiful.” At the end when asked the audience stood and sang our national anthem. I was seated next to an African American. We rose and placed our hats over our hearts. Then as members of the armed services past and present were called to the stage everyone applauded. It was a wonderful experience.

We listened to the stories of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. There was no booing, no ugly remarks, just pride in our collective history. People left laughing and talking with one another. We were one in appreciation for our great country.

God Bless America.

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