September 1, 2019 Abraham Abbey Church
The “Wrath of God” is a common expression. Aunt Esther used it while hitting Fred Sanford on the head with her Bible and purse, Carrie’s mother probably used the term when warning her daughter about having any kind of fun, and many people reading our scriptures this morning would describe what happens to the people who ignore the advice given as the “Wrath of God”. The first reading actually describes some of the bad things that happen to people who “forsake the Lord”.
But there might be a better take on who or what causes all the problems that come about when we sin. Problems do indeed come about when we sin – always. Sometimes it is just not we who experience the problems, or sometimes we do feel the consequences after a long time of thinking we have “gotten away with it”, and of course, sometimes the effects are immediate and land right on our own heads. But sin does always cause problems (“wrath” if you want to call it that). But it just does not seem that the God shown to us by Jesus is someone who sits around waiting to smite people who break the rules he seems to love making so many of. Maybe the reason there are so many rules is because the foundation of the universe is love, and when we do unloving things we are throwing a wrench in our little corner of the cosmos, making it not work properly for us and the people around us. So maybe all the rules are God’s way of reminding us to do everything in love so that we do not cause harm for ourselves and others. In other words, the rules are there to prevent us from making wrath and bringing it upon ourselves and others.
Sin is simply doing unloving things: prideful government (as in our first reading), being inhospitable, adulterous, and greedy (as in our second reading), and giving things with strings attached (as in our gospel reading). Building lives of sin simply means that we are putting ourselves in the center of everything rather than living in the already established truth that God is the center of everything. When we live with God in the center, we and those around us simply fit in the mix and can go about our daily lives with gratitude and joy, knowing full well that we are not the sources of our own existence. When we try to make ourselves the center of our universes and live as if we are the sources of our own existence, things don’t go well, because we cannot hold it together. Things become fouled up and wrath is created. The wrath is our own fault and our own creation.
So, maybe humans should stop blaming God for all the bad consequences we ourselves have been causing ever since we have been around. Jesus is not here to send us to hell; his job is to pull us out of the hell we make for ourselves and those around us. Why not make the job easier by making less wrath? We can do it. The grace of God is all we need to do it, and the grace of God is the surest thing in the world. AMEN