Is It Fit to Say That God is a Risk-taker?
Comparatively speaking, we can say it is still early morning in the New Year. And just as it is every day, we already anticipate doing some things this year but we have no idea of many other things coming our way. Some will be pleasant surprises while others may not. We just hope and pray we get fewer of those that are not.
It could be that you are still surveying the horizon for your plans, projects and goals for this New Year. It could be that you have not finished assessing the yields or shortcomings of last year’s projects, commitments, and goals.
For me, I am still working on my Accountability Plan for 2014 to submit to the Conference office. In this plan I list out the things I want to achieve this year. Among a few other things, I fell short of my reading list for last year. That is why throughout the month of December of last year I was pondering on my personal and spiritual life, not because they are separate from each other but because they flow together in my family life and my ministry here at First Mennonite.
I am deeply grateful to the Lord for his blessings on my family. I am deeply grateful to each of you for surrounding me and my family with your prayers, support, and multiple gestures of love and care. As a family we have moved ahead, not only in years—as in aging, (I turned 50 last year) but more importantly in life. Our children are growing up and Emmanuel caught up with me in height. Jasmine moved to Middle School and Madeleine move from “single-digit to two-digit numbers” for counting her birthdays, as she says. Lilian graduated from school last month.
But we had our moments of grief also. I lost two uncles—one just last Sunday.
The Brazilian mystic Paul Coelho states: “You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen”.
I must say that the unexpected happens whether we allow or not. It is a fact of life.
When we talk about risk taking, we think of humans trying to move forward amidst the fog of life’s mystery and unpredictability. We wake up in the morning already knowing most of what we anticipate during the day and yet not knowing what might show up during the course of it. We move forward a second, a minute, an hour and one step at a time because we know we cannot live a normal life if we wait to make a move until we get to know what lies ahead. We know that overcoming the road bumps can only happen if we keep walking on the road.
But what about God, does God ever take risks or have ever done so? But wait! God does not walk in the midst of fog like we humans do. Is he not God, the all-knowing God, after all? How then can he take risks; or does he actually take risks?
In Genesis we read
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:26-27).
And there seemed to be joy, excitement, and great hope when God decided to create humanity. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good (1:31).
My dear brothers and sisters we must remember that the creation of humanity marks the climax of God’s grand creation project. Humanity was not the only piece of God’s creation nor was his only. We must remember that God’s creation project according to Genesis 1 began when he took upon himself to organize and to transform the huge cosmological chaos there was. In Genesis 1, verse 2, we read “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God [or the Spirit of God] swept/hovered over the face of the waters.
In Israel’s confession of faith, this beautiful world, this dynamic and mysterious universe within which the Earth shares a minute space, came out of a watery chaos and utter darkness. Israel would say and the church would say, when God came he created beauty, light, and humanity out of what used to be chaos and darkness.
God created humanity with joy, love, and a clear plan. He gave them authority to rule over everything created. He gave them passion to care for each other and everything God had created. And God gave them power to co-create a world and sweet home for themselves.
In Isaiah 43:7 we read that God created men and women for his glory.
From the moment God conceived the plan to create humanity he decided to give them authority and freedom. God did not want to create automatons or robots to function according to a pre-determined configuration. He did not create them with a built-in system of control by which with the touch of a button he would make them act or think in a given way. He gave his creatures a will to choose freely. He gave them the ability to think and decide for themselves as they pleased.
And not long after they were created and given all this love, power, and freedom Adam and Eve chose to go against the will of their Maker. Was it not a risky thing to create humanity in this way on the park of God?
It is for this reason that Scriptures also voices a deep lament from the heart of God. From the moment Adam and Eve disobeyed their Maker, God came looking for them. The question “Where are you?” voiced by God is not only for the literary beauty of portraying God in human form. The question “where are you” shows God’s vulnerability after he created Man and Woman in his image. In Psalm 14:2 and 3 read: The LORD looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God. [but] They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse; there is no one who does good, no, not one.
My dear brothers and sisters, when God created humanity he had a plan for them. They were to take care of his grand creation. They were to provide husbandry to all the creatures. They were to love each other. They were created to have fellowship with their Maker. And in the words of the prophet Isaiah, they were created to give God the glory. And while God did have a plan for humanity, He took the risk to given freedom to choose even if they would choose contrary to his designed will.
God was the first risk-taker. To say this about God is deliberately risk-taking (no pun intended). But God did take a risk that his creatures would not follow his will. Yet in his love for them, he would not create them differently.
But the fact that humanity chose to go their way away from God does not mean that his compassion and desire to connect with humanity ended. Along the lines of Scriptures God continually kept wooing his creatures to turn around. He sent his prophets of old to speak on his behalf. At God’s very urging the prophet Ezekiel says: As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33:11)
God’s love for his people and for everyone is the same. He gives us freedom. But when we choose contrary to his will he pleads us to come back to him.
Allow me to go over again. Remember, there was chaos and darkness in a desolate and unproductive deep emptiness captured in the Hebrew words: tohu wabohu: emptiness of desolate and unproductive expanse. And only the Spirit or wind of God hovered and swept upon the face of this dark and cold watery expanse.
In love God intervened there. And out of a desolate and watery world of darkness came dry land, light, life of all forms, and God’s crown creative handiwork bearing his own image—human beings. That is you and me!
Let also remember that where God Spirit blows salvation comes. God’s wind came and Moses and the great Exodus multitude passed through the Red Sea on dry land.
The Spirit of God blew and tongues of fire came upon Jesus’ disciples and transformed a bunch of fear-stricken people into bold witnesses that changed the world.
The Spirit of God is hovering upon us today. He wants to bring life, beauty, newness and make his presence mingle with ours visibly in this city. But we should be reminded that everywhere God intervenes and works, things change, space is organized, and men and women assume serious and at times challenging responsibilities. We will see examples of this in the following Sundays.
God is calling us to face our challenges this year. The Spirit of God is sweeping upon us and wants to breathe light and life afresh in our midst.
Let us take risks this year and break away from the security of barren patterns of church management, where fear of what if this or that paralyzes us and the work of God. This fear for breaking away from old patterns not freezes us but extinguishes any light of faith and hope God calls us to have and exercise in the name of Jesus, his Son. For I tell you if you have faith as the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, be moved away and it will be done.
Let us take risks to break away from lifeless worship practices. Should we come to this place only to look forward to 12:00noon to go home again? Let us take the risk to come here expecting God to meet us. Let us come expecting to be blessed by God. And if it is not happening let us do as Jacob did. He fought with God’s angel and held onto him and said: I will not let you go unless you bless. Bless Me!
Let us open our heart and mind to God when we come together in worship. Forget what I might think of you, and forget what time it is. Ask and implore the Spirit to lead you before the presence of God.
Let us take the risk to break away from the aimless leadership styles that get us nowhere. Leaders are called leaders because they lead and because there are followers who come after them. They are at the front. And this means if you are a church leader you are a spiritual leader. And as such your and my heart should seek to know where the Spirit of God wants to lead us. As such we are called to seek after God’s own heart for his people we are called to lead. Today, God might be calling you dear fellow church leaders to break away from everything and anything that holds you from fulfilling you call from God. And if you are not sure you are called to lead, please tell God he made a mistake in calling you. And I should too, if that is the case.
Let us take the risk and stop once and for all that dwarf-perpetuating Christian life, which is easy to embrace. We adults know very well both from experience and observation that during the teen years growth happens immensely fast. When growth happens it is not only disconcerting but also discomforting. It is disconcerting because for boys their voice changes. At times they squeak and at times they thunder when they speak. They become clumsy as they adapt to their growing limbs. Their lips grow fat, beside other body parts that also grow.
It is also discomforting because there is pain as their bones grow. As a parent you find yourself rubbing legs and arms. Growing can be painful.
My dear brothers and sisters let us grow in our spiritual lives. Doing that will force you to engage in things that are not always within your comfort zone. You might have to read your Bible more. You will have to take time to pray for yourself and for people who you normally might not pray for. You might have to develop a new way in your relationship with God and his people. You might want to make personal sacrifices in terms of time and effort.
Growing spiritually might be disconcerting and discomforting. But staying an eternal dwarf is not an option according to Paul.
Paul says that God wants “us reach to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).
This New year, let us receive the breath, the wind, or the Spirit God breathing upon us. And let us take the risk in life-sustaining and faith-led obedience as God’s people. As leaders let follow what we believe God is telling us to do even if they sound risky. Let us actively participate in a worship that seeks to raise the name of God and his Christ above everything. Let us fix our eyes on what God desires for us a church and lead diligently, persistently, and courageously. Let us seek to grow and promote spiritual growth in everything we do in the name of Christ. Amen!