Wednesday, February 09, 2011

On My Way to a Sermon on Deuteronomy 30: God's Gonna Cut You Down

'What three things would you say about God?' I asked my 9 and 7 year old sons.
He's cool,He's nice, He's loving...
I just want to say right off the bat that I try really hard to use gender non-specific language in reference to God. I refer to God as Heavenly Father AND Mother, and really try not to say 'He' too much. We even sing an inclusive language Doxology in church. So where all this 'HE' stuff is coming from I don't know.

But for today, it's the adjectives; cool, nice, loving that I'm thinking about. I'm glad they've got the idea of God as 'loving.' But 'cool' and 'nice'? Especially when we get these edgy descriptions of God, like in Deuteronomy 30 where God offers both blessing and threatens destruction. God watching and waiting to either be our best friend or our worst enemy. I knew guys like that in high school. Since I was a small guy, I liked having them on my side, and occasionally one of them would befriend and protect me in gym class. But you never knew when they were going to change their minds from the friend to the enemy. That isn't a good feeling. So you had to watch yourself around them. And you could never really relax, even when they were on your side.

Jim Wallis of Sojourners will sometimes mention the Bible he had in seminary (I think) that he cut all of the verses and stories about money out of, to show people what was left in the bible when we ignored them. What would happen if I cut out all the angry, threatening, dangerous God stories?

And don't give me that, 'That is the Old Testament God' stuff.
Mt 13:49-50 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

It's in the New Testament too. So we've got to deal with it.

I think that if we smooth off the rough edges of the Threatening God, we are left without justice, righteousness, even resurrection, which is the vindication of the wrongfully murdered faithful (at least, initially as I understand it). Without a serious and slightly menacing God, we are left with God as a grandfatherly butler therapist, waiting behind the scenes for us to need a favor, but not capable of demanding our allegiance or obedience. God without some menace is a God who we just don't need to take that seriously, and if the research reflected in Kenda Creasy Dean's Almost Christian is accurate, that is the God too many Christians worship and most American's like to think about.

So I'm gonna preach in favor of an angry God (very carefully I might add).
The questions to consider; What is dangerous about preaching a Threatening and sometimes Angry God? What is missing in our faith if we skip over these stories of God's anger, destructive power, and menacing presence?

And somehow I'm gonna work some Johnny Cash into it, because as I was reading Deut 30, this song came to mind.

"God's Gonna Cut You Down"

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God'll cut you down
Sooner or later God'll cut you down

Well you may throw your rock and hide your hand
Workin' in the dark against your fellow man
But as sure as God made black and white
What's done in the dark will be brought to the light

Go tell that long tongue liar
Go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down

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