Three times in the year you shall hold a festival for me. … No one shall appear before me empty-handed. – Exodus 23:14-15 (NRSV)
What’s up with this? Who do you think you are, God? “Three times in the year you shall hold a festival for me.” Period. Just ordering, prescribing—demanding, really—that three times a year we do this whether we feel like it or not, whether it’s convenient or not. And, for good measure: “See that you don’t come empty-handed.”
God in this passage sounds as sharp and direct as my grandmother, Victoria Moon Robinson. Though I was the apple of her eye, she was completely capable of setting me straight in no uncertain terms. When my words were those of a callow youth, she fixed me with the stern look of her craggy visage and said, “Mister, don’t ever think that you are any better than anyone else.”
So often today, too often, we seem to construe God in ways that suggest that God’s whole purpose in being is to serve us, to comfort us, to make us feel okay or peaceful or less stressed. God as a Sleep Number Bed, adjustable to our own particular comfort preference. God becomes another consumable, adjusted to fit our tastes and needs.
But what if that’s not who God is at all? What if the point is not to adjust God to fit and serve us, but for us to be adjusted—transformed—to serve God? What if God is God?
Dear God, you alone are holy. You alone are worthy. You alone are God. Help me, this day, to take myself a little less seriously and take you a little more seriously. Amen.