When I put together a sermon, no matter how difficult the topic, I’m always looking to find “good news” in the scripture readings. Perhaps it is because I prefer being an optimist …with the glass always being half full. But really, I want others to see God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as the deeply compassionate and loving trinity that I believe them to be.
Last night I had a conversation with an inmate at the Tucker unit. He feels like we (Kairos among others) have it all wrong. Our God, he says, is hard nosed and most people are going to be astonished when God turns them away. He sighted a lot of old testament stories about a vengeful God who is quick to punish those who do not follow God’s laws. I pointed out that one of the reasons Jesus (God in human flesh) had to come to earth was because of all of the hard and fast rules being laid down by the Pharisees. They were scaring people with those same kinds of absolutes about following their rules.
It doesn’t made sense to me that our God, described by Jesus in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, could be a vengeful God. When the father (God) in the parable, sees the son from far distance, he runs to meet him and immediately calls for a celebration. This is the nature of our God … one who is eager for us to do the right thing …one who celebrates our successes. I’m sure there are times when we bring a tear to God’s eye as well, when we stray from the path of love.
There is a tendency in every religious organization to make rules; to say “THIS IS THE WAY IT IS!” But I believe that when anyone is “certain” they know the one and only “right way,” and start point out to others that these are the clear and only steps to salvation, and, everyone else is wrong, they are relying on their way, the they would do it if they were God.
We have a God of grace and mercy! Thank God! We can’t make God fit how we perceive things to be. I believe that God is beyond our understanding. I believe that God exists and that God created us and wants only the very best for us. But, unlike humankind, God is not looking to catch us breaking laws so punishment can be levied. God, I believe, is cheering us onward. The God of my understanding gets excited at every little effort we make that moves us closer to being like Christ. Our God is ready to throw a party when we show love and compassion toward others. And in showing love and compassion to others, we are showing love toward God, because all are God’s creations.
Prayer for the week:
your call draws us but never ensnares us;
show us what it means
to leave self behind
and follow you all our days.
Teach us to trust you enough
to give you everything
as raw material for your work
of healing and reconciliation in the world;
for your love’s sake.
(Angela Ashwin, Book of a Thousand Prayers)