I belong to a new church and I love the messages each Sunday. The minister is a teacher, not a preacher and he really appeals to why I love being part of a church family. Phil is a bit irreverent, highly intelligent and is not afraid to make his congregation squirm in their seats for a few minutes. He recently spoke about the wrath of God, a subject that most pastors completely stay clear of. I had a love-hate relationship with his message.
We have become a society where all kids get a ribbon for participating in an activity, where religion is white-washed to make sure it does not offend anyone, where God is happy all the time, and where even the new Grinch movie makes the green villain loveable from the start. I have seen it twice and cried both times. The green bad boy has puppy dog eyes and is just so sad and searching for love, that I want to reach out, give him a big hug (I am a hugger) and invite him over for a dinner of broccoli, spinach, green beans, and avocados. I might serve beets, at least one food colored red, my favorite.
Phil the Teacher was clever. He did not offend anyone sitting in the pews because he was smart. Rather than use his own words that could be misconstrued, he used God’s words. He turned the message into a bible study about how God can be angry with us like our own parents were when we were growing up. I remember how I would ignore them and do stupid stuff like climb up onto our angled white-rock slippery roof, and slide down snowy hills in the winter right along railroad tracks until my hands practically had frost-bite. The best was when my friends and I would walk across the active train trestles looking down at the cars driving by, not worried at all about an oncoming train.
Phil read the seven letters Paul had written to the different churches in the region. The scripture described how much God hates adultery, idolatry, hypocrisy, immorality, impurity, sensuality, anger, jealousy, lawbreakers, drunkenness….and the list went on and on. After twenty minutes of scripture and not a comment of his own, he scanned the congregation and said completely straight-faced, “Well, things got really quiet in here….I must have touched a nerve or two with some of you.”
I sat there stunned. How many of these things have I done that God is probably pretty mad at me about? Have I led my life in a way that would be pleasing to him? Worse yet, I pray to Him, but do I really listen to Him? Truly listen for God’s instructions for me? We are on this earth for one reason. To follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Am I doing that every day? I love to help people but am I doing it out of my own ego or out of God’s wishes?
I realized that all my life I have been trying to help people when I see someone struggling with the inequities in their life. But my ego kicks in and I try to “fix” them or their problem, rather than letting God do that. Who am I to think I know better than God? I just need to listen to God and give them a hand up. To be a shoulder to cry on. To just show love….unconditional love, support and belief in them.
That is what God always does for us. He just keeps coming back for more rejection, hoping to finally crack through our hearts which are filled with fear and pain that make us say “I can do it by myself,” just like my little granddaughter tells me all the time. We convince ourselves we don’t need God’s help, but we do. We all desperately do.
Stop. Be Still. Listen. Pray for guidance, not asking for the much-needed money, or the new job or car or a new handsome date. Just pray for God’s will in your life. God may get angry with us, but he always loves us and wants us to be happy, to help others, to believe in His Glory and to share His word with others, not just friends and family, but strangers and our enemies.
Be His Love and his Light in this world of darkness.