I remember the moment. The painful moment.
The pastor hadn’t been expecting the VBS coordinator to be giving a special announcement, but he looked up and saw her standing at the back of the sanctuary, waving her recruitment sign.
Vacation Bible Study was right around the corner, and she needed help.
So the pastor invited her up to make her announcement. After enumerating the myriad tasks that needed to be done, the VBS coordinator concluded: “We need you. The kids need you. And God needs you.”
The pastor was in a bind. He rightly hated manipulative appeals for help, and he was afraid we’d just been given one. And so, the theological reinterpretation commenced:
“God doesn’t need you. The kids might need you….” probably followed by a reframing of the plea to consider serving our kids.
It was a Presbyterian church, with strong Reformed theology. And at the heart of it lay this deep conviction about the sovereignty of God.
“God doesn’t need you.”
There is a sense in which I have to agree with the idea that God doesn’t need us. The crucifixion-resurrection complex stands as an eternal judgment upon the self-righteous religious who become so convinced that we are at the center of things that we rise up against God’s plans and inadvertently destroy them.
In that sense, then, God doesn’t need us, because God can raise the dead. God can call the things that are not so that they are.
“Don’t think to say to yourself, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones!”Ah… there’s the rub. God might not need me to be a child of Abraham, but God still needs children of Abraham–or else God and God’s story are a failure.
God might not need the first century law-keeping religious leaders to bring about God’s promised salvation, but God still needs a faithful human king–and that risen king’s only remaining item of business before leaving the place was to send out a handful of folks on mission.
When I started writing this blog, I called it “Storied Theology: Telling the Story of the Story-Bound God.” The sub-title was a nod in the direction of deconstructing the idea that God’s “otherness” leaves God completely free to act as God will.
God has chosen a different path.
God has chosen humanity, Israel, David, and Christ. God has chosen the apostles, prophets, preachers, and servants.
Recently, Andy Crouch gave a talk in which he outlined the main thesis of his new book; namely, that right use of power only comes when we properly embrace both the gift of power and of vulnerability.
God, of course, embraced the vulnerability of power in not only becoming human but even in the death of the Beloved Son.
But I don’t think it ends there.
God continues to depend on people, to subject Godself to the vulnerability of the fact that people must recognize God’s work in the world, enact God’s work on the world’s behalf, and be the enactment of the saving story God is writing.
God can do whatever God wants.
What God has chosen to do is to enter into a gifting relationship with the world and the church that leaves open the real possibility of being ignored, even of (on the small scale) failure.
This is the vulnerability that is true expression of power in a relationship of love. This is why, I think the VBS coordinator was right.
God needs you. And so do the kids. And so do we.