Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In Heaven and on Earth

Some people's concept of God is of an aloof Power Who got the universe going and hasn't paid much attention to it since. Others, who give God a bit more credit for interest in His Creation, still see Him as too busy with big things like keeping the planets in orbit, to be bothered with the petty worries of human beings. And some get so obsessed with how bad their own sinfulness is compared to God's holiness (which is true enough) that they are ashamed to speak to Him, even to confess; or they go in groveling to the point of embarrassment, as if atonement depended on the fervency of their pleas for forgiveness.

Still other people go to the opposite extreme and treat God as a cosmic Vending Machine Whose primary function is to answer our prayers for parking spaces near the store entrance, or as a "buddy" (the lowercase here is deliberate and deserved) who can be approached as an equal, perhaps even as an inferior judging from the casual and flippant tones such people take with Him: "Hey, God, sorry my wife got so upset about my staying out late without calling, could you convince her to make a few more allowances?"

Even among believers, it's a relatively rare attitude that strikes a reasonable balance between God's holiness and power on one hand, and His compassion and concern for every human being on the other. Granted that God is too great for us to even remotely grasp, we can get into trouble concentrating on one aspect of His being to the exclusion of others. The purest worship allows one view to feed the other rather than shouldering it aside: looking in awe at God's perfection can make it all the more remarkable that He cares for the likes of us, and overflowing with gratitude for His redemption and providence can bring a deeper understanding of the purity that made the Atonement possible.

Though God "made the world and everything in it [and] is the Lord of heaven and earth" (Acts 17:24, NIV), He "is not far from each one of us" (v. 27).

In Heaven, yes, but not apart from Earth,
Not perched aloof above our struggling race;
He Who embodies mercy seeks a place
In every human life this world gives birth.
He Who did coil the spiral galaxies
And fans the supernovas into flame
Still tunes His ear to each who calls His Name
From this small planet. Every life He sees,
And even every thought in every mind.
To Him belongs all judgment, every act
Of grace, and all the love that makes a pact
With each repentant soul of humankind.
He Who Himself made all the things of Earth
And all beyond, came here, His might made dim,
That we might someday rise to live with Him.
The Lord of Heaven had a human birth!

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