Tag Archives: Paul the Apostle
And maybe that’s true! Maybe people really don’t need a forty-year-old suburban dad in a uniform to show up and recite a script when you may only have a few hours or days to live. To stand outside the hospital and pray for you in case you don’t have anyone else to do it. “Deliver your servant.” Part of me hopes it’s true, that no one needs that, because it’s certain that few people get it.
It was so drastic and all-encompassing, which is I guess what people say about cults they’ve left. All-encompassing but not closed off, not provincial or hysterical. It was, as we’d have said about a band or a labor project at Deep Springs, “hardcore,” but in a way that expanded rather than contracted my idea of humanity and human sympathy. I guess I wanted it to be true, to the point of not minding the risk that it would prove not to be.
And the truth about people who do not fear God or respect humans is that they may look and sound and even feel tough, but in fact they are not. All it takes is the right kind of pressure to make the judge in the parable give in. The justice of the widow’s case is not his concern. His concern is only that he should not suffer or sacrifice for any particular outcome.
That’s the belly-god for you, though. He says “fill me up,” and you try to do it but he’s never full. He says “empty me out” and yet he’s never empty. He’s an easy god to worship, because he’s always with us and he’s never, ever satisfied.
This verse is like an explosion. How do we get right with God? How do we attain that righteousness with which God judges the world and condemns the wickedness of humanity? Do we have to humble ourselves before our husbands? Do we have to lord it over our wives? Do we have to follow “Biblical life principles”? Do we have to pray an hour every day? Will that get us to the righteousness of God?
Think about what that means for a moment. Paul is saying that Christ has broken down the defenses, the protections, that divided Jew from Gentile, nation from nation. This is no cheap metaphor. A city without a wall, or a Temple without a wall, was vulnerable. It was naked. Yet Paul here is saying that what has happened in Christ Jesus and in the preaching of his Gospel has broken down the wall that kept Jew and Gentile in hostility to each other. The people who share in the gifts of his body and blood and who receive his triumph over sin and death by faith, those people are no longer divided into insiders and outsiders, into the safe and the abandoned, into the privileged and the excluded.
How terribly great and mighty God’s glory is, greater and mightier than we can imagine! How frail and small humanity is! How absurdly brief our life! God cannot help but love God’s creation. And we cannot help but love God, in some form or fashion. But we may never meet face to face in this life.
(Note: This sermon was preached on the third Sunday of Advent in 2011, when these Dos Equis ads were still relatively new and creative). Sisters and brothers, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. I want to tell you this morning about my favorite series of beer […]