If God kept his distance

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I’ve been reading through the book of Ezekiel.

I know that the book in the bible that everybody complains about is Leviticus, but I think maybe that book is easier than Ezekiel. (At least Leviticus has all those nasty skin-disease description to keep the images popping through my head.)

Quite suddenly, Leviticus shifts gears.

The whole first thirty-something chapters are really variations on a theme.  There will be several pages describing how horrific things are going to get for Israel.  And then a couple sentences describing how groovy everything will be for Isreal after all the suckiness.

Things change when a man/angel seems to be taking Ezekiel on a guided tour of the temple.  I’ll have to do some homework on this.  (If you’ve got some information, please leave me a comment.)  My assumption is that this is for the new temple, Babylon having destroyed the original.

The thing that jumps out is how precise the description is.  There are quite exact measurements for just about everything you can think of: Doorway sizes, wall widths, etc.  

Honestly, this isn’t a whole lot more compelling than the prior chapters.  (The bible isn’t here for my entertainment and  I’m not saying it should be.  I’m just being real about how intersting I found it.)

I did get interested at chapter 43.  God shows up.  God has been talking to the prophet through the whole book.  But he’s suddenly there, in all his glory, in a new way.

And in chapter 43, God says that Ezekiel should share these plans, down to the smallest detail, with the people of Israel.  He emphasizes that this is the place where people meet up with him.

I had this ah-ha moment, as I read this.

The first thing I realized was that if God were a God who kept his distance, then our sin would be less of a big deal.  If God kept his distance, then we would have more of an excuse for not knowing what to do.  Furthermore, if God kept his distance, our sin would impact Him less.

The second thing I realized is that we tend to locate God in the improvised, creative, and spontaneous.  And while God is certainly in these places, God is also in geometry, math, and architecture.  God is in the details as well as the big picture.  He is the long-term plan as well as the moment.  I’m not denying that it’s an act of worship within each moment to dedicate ourselves to him.  I’m saying that dedicating ourselves to every tiny little details, in advance, is important too.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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