Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”
5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”(Luke 11:1-13)
The texts for two Sundays ago were interesting as they included Luke’s take on the Lord’s Prayer. It then goes on to hear Jesus’ thinking on how God takes care of us and lists things that a parent would not do to a child. From verse 11, Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish will give him a snake instead?” Vs.12, “Or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion?” It ends with “How much more will your father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” This is a real-world view of how we should treat each other and how God chooses the relationship with us.
It is easy for us to say God has a plan for this or that as long as things are going well. But what about the difficult times? What about a medical diagnosis that does not bode well? Can we still say it is God’s plan? It is then a really short step to begin blaming God for the not so good things in our world. We cannot have it both ways.
I am not arguing against God’s ability to see what is out there and where this creation is going. But I struggle with the notion that our God pushes buttons and pulls levers. It is also an easy step to point out weather God likes one person more than another; that to me is really thin ice to be skating out onto.
When I was in Seattle in 2013 for a stem cell transplant, I was assigned a Lutheran pastor as a chaplain in the outpatient clinic that was to be four-month long treatment series. She was a great support and in our first visit, she asked me three seemingly simple questions that did not, on the surface, take a lot of pondering to generate an answer. By the second question I could see where she was going, and it was her search for whether I was angry with God over the entire leukemia adventure that was in its 14th year.
I was not angry then or now, even though I have no problem with the lament psalms and sniveling at God for the differences in the promise of the covenant and the way things seem at the moment. With those psalms we must recall that they all end about the same way, God is still God, and we are still, and always will be, the created. Sadly, several years later in a conversation with this chaplain, we could not reconstruct the precise questions. It was simply the Holy Spirit busy in that single moment.
In Psalm 85, chosen for the that same week, there were several stanzas that are clearly a lament. Verse 5 for example, “Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations?”
In her book, Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, Kate Bowler deals with this sort of question. It is a short easy read, but it deals with this assumption that we are somehow captive to some mysterious plan concocted by God, whatever that may be. As a young lady, she is diagnosed with a stage four cancer and is forced to grapple with the clichés of our times.
She takes a slightly different approach to the same question that Harold Kushner jousts with in his book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People.
It seems to me that God works with us as we are, a rather sloppy package, that is easily distracted by the events and pressures of the day. I think God is eminently patient with us and loves us unconditionally.
Lord God, thank you for your presence in our lives. Help us to be those people that you would want us to be and share your vision for the health of this creation. Help us to be as gracious with others as you are to us.