In the area in which we live – the greater DC metro area – even in the throes of an economic downturn, the norm is Larger Than Life. We have noticed recently the declining numbers of Hummers on the road (praise God), and sure, people seem to NOT be building new monstrous houses in our area. But the tabloids are still smattered with the spectacular, unbelievably good or alternately unbelievably bad lives of celebrities. And people are still eating super-sized fast food. And at the beginning of the fall retail frenzy (you know the one – where back-to-school flows into Halloween chachky flows into Christmas flows into President’s day?) all indicators in the parking lot and the ads are that we are still interested in being “larger than life.”
But we’re not the only generation to be concerned for the larger things in life. The bible is full of big stuff…big kings, big failures, big events. It seems that all of humanity is fascinated with Large. Or Strong. Or Powerful. Or Wonderful.
And this week, we were reminded in our reading that sometimes our Larger Than Life worldview affects our expectation and understanding and acceptance of God.
Starting in 1 Kings, we pick up again on the story of Solomon. Last week, he asked for wisdom and is praised for his simple priorities, and this week he is overseeing the consecration of The Temple. No expense has been spared to construct a Splendid dwelling place for the Lord. Then Solomon prays a big prayer asking the Lord to continue looking favorably on the people of Israel and to keep the line of David strong and royal (not a Big ask, right?). And he asks that the whole world know and recognize the name of the Lord. And there is much praise (there is no other god on heaven or earth like You…) and there is much hope and there is much expectation. Larger Than Life.
The psalmist continues with a hymn of praise and adoration. It is gushing about the Lord’s power and might…one day in your courts is greater than a thousand elsewhere and No good thing is withheld from the upright.
In the letter to the Ephesians, the writer paints of a picture of God’s power as armor that believers can don to shield them from attack and strengthen them for a battle. Because believing in this God – living in this different way and following the teachings of Jesus – is really risky at the time of this writing. And these people are truly having to arm themselves for martyrdom in the face of persecution. In our Larger Than Life world, we don’t find ourselves threatened because of our beliefs very often…not in this Larger Than Life society America.
Finally, in the Gospel of John, the Larger Than Life expectations of some of the mass of disciples following Jesus and the Twelve get turned upside down. For several weeks, we’ve been reading the teaching in this Gospel about the Bread of Life. Jesus continues to talk about his own flesh and blood…and he’s pretty adamant that those who eat of him will gain something precious – eternal life! (Larger Than Life?) Then he goes on to say something very interesting – it is spirit that gives life. Without spirit, the flesh is useless. And Jesus is offering words of spirit and life – not Superman muscle, but a message about living small, about being one with the least of these, about giving it all away to gain spirit and Life.
God of creation…
We enter this world
Marvels of creation
Flesh and blood and need.
And we run the risk
Of spending our growth
On living larger
Achieving some dizzying height.
Help us see small
To become like children
To be simple
To have little
And want less.