We are a church that proclaims the God Who loves the whole world unconditionally just as we are, not a god who hates for who we are not. We proclaim this God Who includes everyone into worship and service, not a god who excludes with restrictions on who can be part of this nourishing family of God. We proclaim the God of overwhelming forgiveness and mercy, not a god who quenches our thirst for vengeance on those who wronged us. We’ve come to know this God of unexplainable grace upon grace because of the stories shared from generations ago through the Scriptures, when time and time again people marveled at just how much this God absolutely cherished them through all the up’s and down’s of a lifetime.
One of those Scriptures we continue to cherish, we heard this morning; Psalm 30 with all of its beautiful imagery: God attentively listens to the cries for help, sends joy to the scene of weeping, transforms cries of mourning into uncontrollable dancing. Except there’s that one subtle, incredibly short, single line in the midst of all that wonderful healing and new life; and we still need to hear that one line just as much as the rest: God gets angry. The psalmist reminds us it does not last for long, but nevertheless, God gets angry. And the truth is, we desperately need this Almighty God to have such a response.
Yet we the church have this immensely pivotal role to play in proclaiming what God is to the world, and we could most certainly take advantage of that single line. Yes, it may last for only a moment, but when, how, why exactly does this God of unconditional love get angry? Can the church tell the world it happens when they don’t show up for worship? Can it be when they don’t give enough time or money? Is it possible God craves so much to hear our songs of joy and thanksgiving, and see us at work in ministry, that God could get livid when we do none of the above?
We do have that one scene in the Gospels when Jesus turns irate, to say the least, tossing tables over and the money the religious leaders came to lust over went flying all over the same floor that precious children of God walked on just for the slightest hope of a deeper connection with this God of grace upon grace. So evidently the church is not meant to be the house of numerical wealth, but a ministry site, where God ministers to people like the psalmist who crave for healing, and just as much the place and the people for God to raise up disciples to bring even a glimpse of such hope to others beyond the walls of a sanctuary.
So is it possible God gets angry when the church throughout the world does not live up to that simple, yet marvelously powerful, desire? However, God’s anger is not meant to make us feel guilty. That does God no good at all. It’s not meant to make us cower into a corner, to be scared of God, to retreat from that divine love that saves us. It’s not to make us hesitant to pray, to avoid calling on God, for fear that we’re not praying for something legitimate enough in God’s eyes.
After all, as much as Scripture reveals to us time and time again just how much God absolutely cherishes us, it also shows us God’s wrath erupts when just as precious children of God are mistreated, taken advantage of, looked down upon as if they are not fully God’s children. So when scores of those God-cherished children of all ages are shot in Chicago last weekend, God most certainly gets upset. When it happens yet again on a college campus this past week at UCLA, God gets irritated. When life is lost in war, or tossed aside, or manipulated for one’s own personal gain, God gets absolutely furious. And the truth is, we wouldn’t want anything less. Because that’s just how much God loves the whole world.
We don’t want a god who will simply say, “that’s too bad,” and move onto what’s next. We want this God to care so so much, to love each and every precious child of God so incredibly much, that God will weep when something happens. God will get angry over such things. Nevertheless, that one line in Psalm 30 is just that…one line. God’s anger is short, because God does not respond with hatred or vengeance, as humans are prone to do. Instead, God responds with a mercy beyond the world’s comprehension, the world’s only hope it has against its very self.
God saw the violence, witnessed the manipulation of human life for generation after generation. God doesn’t send an army, not a king to trounce the world; but instead a Messiah to defeat the awful hatred with an even more awe-inspiring love. God responds with the cross. Our Savior took on the most vicious punishment the world could muster at the time, and yet joy could not be contained. Weeping spent the night in the grand scheme of humanity’s time, but joy came through an empty tomb. Life won the victory for all of God’s precious children. Love conquered for eternity, including for all of us forevermore! And for that, we give thanks to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Dennis Smith, Interim Pastor
Office: Tue - Fri: 9 a.m. - Noon