What ways has God gotten your attention? A good book? A scripture? A dream? An illness? A natural wonder? a heartfelt and truthful conversation? In the readings for today we encounter several more evident ways that God gets the attention of human beings. When their minds are made up, and pieties tidy, God appears to shepherd them, with gentle firmness, toward actions truer and more loving than they had previously imagined possible.
The passage from Isaiah shows us how God speaks to a King, an important and powerful person, with a self-image to fit. God has his work cut out in trying to get around this “type-A” ego. He is someone who knows he is in charge and doesn’t wait around to find out what is going to happen. He’ll make it happen! Isaiah prophesies, bears a message of God’s word to Ahaz amidst a tense and threatening political and military crisis Ahaz is eager to solve. Pekah and Rezin, Kings of two neighboring polities, have allied to attack Jerusalem and Judah, the place Ahaz rules as king. Ahaz has begun to court the Assyrian empire as an ally. Isaiah and others have warned him that the price of selling out the kingdom to Assyria in order to win a battle with neighbors seems rather high. Ahaz is looking for the big win, the big deal. He’s not even looking for what God is doing, and certainly not waiting on God. God says, ‘ask me, I’ll give you a sign’ and Ahaz refuses, a gesture of false piety masking his trust in himself. Alright God says, I’ll give you a sign. Not an army, not a troop of destroying angels. A young woman and her child. A young woman and her child, waiting, looking for daily bread, waiting, when will this war be over. A young woman holding her child, trusting that in not too long, there will be food for the boy.
The passage from Matthew reminds us that God can get our attention through a dream. God speaks to Joseph, Jesus’ adoptive father, thru a dream. We’ve heard the story. Joseph is engaged to Mary, who is found to be with child. And not desiring to expose Mary to shame, he decided to resolve the matter quietly. Reasonable, out of caring concern for Mary… and maybe he also hoped to avoid all the drama and shame he would have to face too. Joseph liked his quiet, tidy life, pious, moral, and unencumbered with too much chaos of living as it was. And that night he dreamt a dream. Joseph! –Mary’s child- co-created by the power Holy Spirit, -a sheer gift of divine being. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Friend do not be afraid. She will bear the child, you will name him Jesus, the whole creation will turn their hearts’ attention to him.
God has quite a few ways to get our attention. We don’t always make it very easy for God. Sometimes God has to help us pay attention to what God is saying and doing in and around us, despite our ideas and habits, good and bad. The ways we expect God to speak to us, our own pictures of ourselves, images and values we have carefully constructed, or absorbed, or chosen, or adapted to out of necessity or survival-these are all things God has to work with. God wants us to each to hear, simple human being that we are, the message promised by the prophets in the scriptures, heard and felt in the arrival of God to be with us in Jesus Christ, son of God, son of David, crucified, descended, risen, ascended, expected to return, laid in a manger, animals the first to behold him. God wants us to hear, for God’s face to shine upon on, to behold us, tend us, renew and restore us in Christ.
What ways has God gotten your soul’s attention? Maybe a vivid dream, a nighttime messenger, a dream with animals talking to you. Or maybe you are reading an immersive novel, and there is something about the world imagined in the story that seems to open up new ways for you to live and move and see who you are, or see the world, to be with God. Or maybe you learn something about a friend or neighbor, what they are living through, and you feel compassion, care or even wonder.
What ways has God gotten the attention of Church of the Holy Spirit over the years, or recently? So it is that God is preparing us to be according to the love given in Christ Jesus, with each other, with the people and other-human-creatures of Vashon, and the world arriving and leaving by ferry.