Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent, Day 5

I called upon the LORD in my distress
and cried out to my God for help.
You heard my voice from your heavenly dwelling;
my cry of anguish came to your ears.
The earth reeled and rocked;
the roots of the mountains shook;
they reeled because of your anger.
Smoke rose from your nostrils

and a consuming fire out of your mouth;
hot burning coals blazed forth from you.
You parted the heavens and came down
with a storm cloud under your feet. - Psalm 18

Image from
I like to think of this as the "mama bear" image of God. The humble person cries out to God in distress and God comes -- and you don't want to mess with this angry God! Yes, it is an image of an angry God, and that makes some people uncomfortable. But why is God angry? Because the one God loves is being persecuted.

Is God angry all the time? I think God's anger is to be equated with heartbreak and longing. Compare to today's gospel reading:

Jesus said, “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” - Matthew 21

Well, yeah, I'd be angry too! Jesus' parable calls to mind a story in Isaiah 5, in which the vineyard in unfaithful to God by yielding wild grapes. Jesus recasts the story such that the vineyard is the innocent victim of evil people. Sure, maybe the vineyard has been unfaithful in the past. But God created the vineyard and loves it so much that righteous anger is the only possible result of this travesty.

Jesus urges his hearers to produce "the fruits of the kingdom." Victimization and oppression would be a flagrant attempt to prevent those fruits from being harvested.

Today, in silent prayer, imagine God as heartbroken and longing for reconciliation with the world. Offer yourself as a helper in this work.

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