It took a minute to figure out how to stand up again after having fallen on my back when the fallen tree I was sitting on collapsed. With my snowshoes pinned under my legs, I eventually decided to try to roll over on my stomach, since I imagined that then I’d be able to push myself up to my knees. From there I knew I could haul myself up hanging onto my trekking poles.
As soon as I was standing up again deep down a dead-end trail in the northwest corner of the Navarino Wildlife Area, I received a call from Czechoslovakia.
It was from our son Noah and his wife Justina who were on their honeymoon. Their voices were as clear as if they were standing right next to me, despite the fact that they were 4,500 miles away. I imagine the signal for that call was beamed up to a satellite over Prague and then to another satellite closer to the US where it was relayed down again from one cell phone tower to another until it reached me. 4500 miles in probably close to real time.
I’m old enough to remember when this kind of thing was science fiction. I know nothing at all about the any of the vast amount of scientific knowledge necessary to make this happen. There are lots of people who do understand the science behind various parts of the network of technology that makes calls like this possible, and there are thousands of people who construct, maintain, and market access to this network. These people work for lots of different companies that rely on each other. The number of people and products working together to make that phone call possible is astonishing. Other than having given people the brains and skills to invent this network, God seems to have nothing to do with its ongoing functioning.
Deep down, we know this about many networks upon which our civilization relies: networks that provide us clean water, electricity, heat, refrigeration, internet, television, transportation, medical care and on and on and on. Though God has given us the brains and skills to invent all these networks, the all-consuming reliance on and interface with these networks has buried our awareness of God further and further beneath this luxuriant and life-sustaining tangle of technology.
Someone has already written an 800 page book about how technologically advanced civilizations inevitably lose track of God. These reflections on that topic have the advantage of including only 970 words. We like brevity. We think 280 characters is enough Truth for us. This includes the spaces which are functional, of course, but signify nothing. Which says a lot about that kind of Truth.
We have Truth. We have marvelous networks of miraculous powers. Why do we need a God? Especially when we come to believe God is not really a reliable Genie for us. When loved ones were unexpectantly handed a death sentence from an incurable disease, we prayed to God for them. And they died anyway. Add this to the tens of thousands of people who die every day of hunger-related causes or illnesses or in wars or in shootings in public places. We wonder why God allows all these things to happen and does nothing about them. We mortals, after all, perform miracles every day like making phone calls from Prague possible in the middle of the woods. You’d think that God, presumably a healer and lover of humankind, would be a little more helpful. It’s time for God to God up, we think.
We forget that a lot of tragic suffering in this world is due to breakdowns in the networks we have invented and upon which civilization depends. A lot of these breakdowns are caused by sin.
· Lutheran and Catholic Germans initially elected Hitler and then, by their silence or cooperation, brought his monstrous regime to life.
· Because trauma and abuse and bullying are increasingly common experiences for children, it’s no wonder that the range of the behaviors they choose from has been narrowed physiologically and psychologically by those experiences.
· Wars and carelessness and greed and complacency are all responsible for hunger-related diseases and the desecration of a Creation that can support even seven billion of us.
· A well-meaning rabbi in first century Jerusalem was delivered to Pontius Pilate who acted swiftly out of suspicious fear of the people that his nation’s armies had bullied for decades and had the rabbi executed in public. Sin had collapsed any concern for justice, despite Rome’s boast that it had invented enlightened law for the world. As in all breakdowns of the networks upon which civilizations depend, not only did it feel to this rabbi that God had forsaken him, but it was an apt description of how far away God seemed to be at the time. God was buried deep beneath layers of human networks warped by sin that made up that civilization.
Jesus did not hold this sin against those who conspired against him, those who nailed the spikes into his flesh, those who mocked him, those who deserted him. This Divine, Royal Pronouncement of Gracious Love and Forgiveness from the cross is how God continues to spring up through all the dust of even the most toxic civilizations. God’s power is not like miraculous phone calls from Prague. God’s power is Love:
· Love for all people and Love for Creation,
· Love that grows and bears fruit in human hearts and lives,
· Love lived out in our roles in the networks of our civilization that keeps those networks working for people and not against them, for Creation and not against it.
What we do matters. How we do it matters. For Christians, Love is what we do. And God is the ever-living source of that Love.