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
Ecless 1:2, 12-14,2:18-20
August 4, 2019 Abbey Church Abraham
“We came into this life unsheltered and all alone. That’s how we came and for sure that’s how we go out.*” That’s what the great theologian Grace Slick sings, and she’s right. And she’s not being sad about it, and Solomon (the author of our first reading this morning) needs to listen to her and cheer up. Things don’t last. People don’t last. So it is all the more important that we love the things and the people around us while we can, because some day, they will be gone, and we will be gone.
Things are good, because they are made by God. But things aren’t God, so as much as we should love the things and people around us, we should love God even more, because God will last. In fact, God’s being is infinitiely more than our being, so we should love God infinitely more than things. More than that, because God’s being is of such a different order than our being, we should love God in a different way of loving than we love people and things.
The more we love God, the more we realize the goodness of the world God has made, and the more we realize that everything receives its integrity and legitimacy solely from God, never from us. Everything is a gift from God. In the eyes of the universe, we have no rights to anything – everything is a gift. So we take it, love it, take care of it for awhile, and then give it back with joy and gratitude.
There is no need for greed or fear. The world does not need to function the way we insist that is does. We are just riding along the edges of creation along with everything else, swirling around God. When we try to make ourselves the center and have things swirl around us, it only causes dangerous eddies that hurt us and the people around us.
So, love deeply and let go gratefully. “We came into this life unsheltered and all alone. That’s how we came and for sure that’s how we go out.” AMEN
* “That’s For Sure” from the 1974 album DRAGONFLY by Jefferson Starship