“God is in control.” I hear this all the time from well-meaning people of faith. I hear it in sermons and read it on church signs.
I find it suspect.
Over six million people worldwide have died of Covid in the past two years. Russia is bombing Ukrainian homes and hospitals. Innocent Black men and women are killed on the streets and in their own homes. Poverty is on the rise. Arctic ice is melting at an unprecedented rate. And those are just this morning’s headlines, a tiny snapshot of six thousand years of human history characterized by sickness, violence, injustice, and endless suffering of the vulnerable.
This, I wonder, is God in control?
We want a God who is in control. This God would guarantee a sensible system of cause and effect – good leading inexorably to reward, evil intentions and means to just punishment. That would be satisfying, wouldn’t it? If the guilty were punished, and the innocent were rewarded?
Only life doesn't work that way. We know it doesn’t. People have always known. From ancient times, humans have tried to make sense of it, to invent a calculus of control. We make laws, perform sacrifices and rituals, all designed to impose order on the chaos of it all. We attribute to God this way of thinking. We say that God somehow wants things this way, or, we say that God let’s us go our own broken way toward damnation, if we so choose. None of this sounds to me like God is in control.
We speak of God as “almighty,” but as Good Friday approaches, I wonder, what if, what if, God is all-vulnerable? Look at the manger. Look at the cross. There is God in Jesus, the one we Christians confess to be the final, ultimate, revelation of who and how God is. Naked, crying out, helpless. God.
What if God’s way is not to control but to relinquish control? What if it is precisely in the relinquishment of control, that God is revealing how the world is saved? God in Christ models not almightiness or control, but loving self-abandonment. All God’s power, surrendered. All God’s innocence, denied. Love condemned to death.
Then the resurrection, revealing what’s been there all along: that vulnerability is our strength; that mercy is greater than guilt; that Love is more powerful than death.
- Find a quiet place to be. Spend a few moments becoming present to yourself. Notice how it feels to be in your body, in this place, at this time.
- Receive God’s invitation to be together.
- Reflect on these questions:
What does it mean to you to say or hear, “God is in control”?
What does it mean to you as you consider God as almighty? As vulnerable?
Read Philippians 2:1-11. The hymn recorded in verses 6-11 is thought to be the oldest text in the New Testament. Spend some time reflecting on these verses. What do they reveal to you about God?
How might your insights inform your experience of Good Friday and/or Easter?
- When you have answered these questions in your thoughts or in writing, pause and again become present to yourself and to God. What do you notice?