Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you. - Isaiah 12:6 (NIV)
God did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? - Romans 8:32
Two-year reading texts: Psalm 119:121-128; 2 Samuel 22:1-25; John 11:1-16
I confess that the first thing that popped into my head when I read the word "great" in today's scriptures was the Great Pumpkin, which will probably be showing on TVs all over the world later today. Obviously, "great" means something quite different in the TV cartoon - and also in one of our main political slogans this year - and in Isaiah 12.
Both the Isaiah 12 and Romans 8 verses speak of a God whose greatness is shown in compassion, in noticing and being with people in need, in taking saving action, withholding nothing for the sake of love. Psalm 119 adds a note of trust in God despite fatigue or impatience from waiting. 2 Samuel 22 takes time for a song of gratitude and trust from King David, with words that remind me of Psalm 46 and "A Mighty Fortress," God as a protector and deliverer. And in John 11, as Jesus prepares to go to Lazarus, his disciples understand that he is risking death to save someone he loves.
The Great Pumpkin is a humorous way to highlight some of the ways in which we fail to see how God's greatness is rooted in God's great love. Linus works hard to locate himself in "the most sincere" pumpkin patch, and expects goodies to be delivered. He keeps repeating this, even after the Great Pumpkin repeatedly fails him.
In contrast, God is "among us" and works "for all of us." Our sincerity, or we might say faith or piety or righteousness, is not something that earns us God's love and attention, but rather a response to what God has already done. And as today's scripture passages describe God's love and acts and deeds, they call us to a response that celebrates and rejoices in them, and also proclaims and shares them with others. God's greatness is shown in love that changes our lives, and calls us to be a part of God's work in changing the lives of others.
True greatness means always living in the midst of God's great love.