A Meditation for 21 August 2016, the 14th Sunday after Pentecost (Year C). The meditation is based on Jeremiah 1: 4 – 10, Hebrews 12: 18 – 29, and Luke 13: 10 – 17.
There are quite a few comments floating around over the Internet rejoicing the fate of a right-wing religious person whose home was destroyed by the recent Louisiana floods. Those who are rejoicing feel that this is either God’s retribution or something similarly appropriate for this individual’s previous rather hateful statements.
Now, maybe it is right that anyone who has spoken words of hatred and exclusion should feel the same pain that they themselves have brought unto others but I don’t believe that is, if you will, the Christian way. And I would say that if this individual or his supporters feel that their proclamation of self-based Christianity make them somehow more worthy of support than others, then I would suggest that they go to the end of the line until the truly needed have been helped.
I have heard those kinds of statements of how natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes are signs of God’s Wrath. But as I once pointed out, how do we interpret the fact that the one of the most likely targets for a lightning strike is a church steeple. In an Internet search I did a few years ago, I find over 100,000 instances of lightning hitting a church steeple. Are the people who make up the church doing things that have incurred God’s Wrath or is it more likely that the steeple is the highest point in the area and, thus, more likely to be struck by lightning (from “And What Will You Say?”)?
But the God that seeks to invoke wrath on a person is not the God of my faith tradition. This may have been the God of the Old Testament but my own faith tradition includes the New Testament and the God of the New Testament cared enough for all the people on this planet to send His Son to save us from sin and death. And this is my own thought but I think God is smart enough to realize that retribution and anger don’t work.
Besides, if God was really that angry at mankind, he could have wiped us off the map years ago (and we know that He did this once before; he also told Noah that the rainbow would be a sign that never again would He destroy the world).
I also think that those who want an angry God do so because that’s the God of their lives. They have transformed the Bible into what they want it to be and what it actually is.
The theme throughout the Old and New Testament is not one of anger and hatred, of war and violence, but of openness and acceptance. A second theme, and the one that may, in part, account for our problems with floods and fires and such, is that we are stewards of this planet.
From the very beginning, we have been tasked with being good stewards, of taking care of this planet, our home. And when we don’t take care of the planet, we can expect to be in deep, deep trouble.
There are those who have been saying that the severe weather that we have been dealing with for the past few years are only the beginning and the result of failure to heed the warnings that we were doing unalterable damage to the environment.
God sent His Son because the people ignored the prophets. If we are to ignore His Son, if we are to ignore the teachings given to us for so many years, then we can expect what is to come. It will not be God’s Wrath that destroys us; it will be our own ignorance.