Sunday, December 14, 2008

The 3rd Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 13:6-13
v. 9: See, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the earth a desolation, and to destroy its sinners from it.

Oh my, this is what we were afriad it was all going to be about. Anger, wrath and destruction at the end. It will all have been a bait and switch when John's "God is Love" (1 John 4:8) becomes Isaiah's "God is wrath."

But come, let us reason together, as Isaiah's God also says (Isaiah 1:18).

Who wants love that cannot get angry? I suppose we all want it as children when we suppose that love means being given what we want all the time. But as we grow we learn that love that cannot get angry really isn't love at all. By "angry" here I don't mean violent or abusive in any way. I mean the capacity to say "no," and to make judgments about what is better for us and not better for us. People who occasionally say no to us and people who sometimes suggest it would be better for us to do "a" then "b" are the people who really care about us.

So it's childish to want God to be love without the capacity for being angry or even making judgments.

But this God Isaiah portrays seems to have lost all rationality and reasonableness. He's gone off the deep end of anger into wrath and destruction.

That's the Bible's way of saying something our grandmothers are supposed to tell us: you get out what you put in. Live with wrath and wrath will bite you back. Destroy the earth and it will destroy you (we're just beginning to get clearer on that one). Jesus taught this as well: "do to others as you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31) and "the measure you give will be the measure you receive" (Mark 4:24; Matthew 7:2).

In the end, however, it gets personnel, personally threatening: "to destroy its sinners from it." "Sinners," the word that will get us in the end. Yes, it will, but in exactly the opposite way then we are inclined to believe, despite everything we have been taught. In the word "sinners" is actually our salvation. Jesus saved/saves sinners. Jesus turns sinners into hagioi, "holy ones," "saints." That's us. We've been baptized. We gather week by week around the Table. This is not a bait and switch.

I have this image that there may indeed be this day on which God the Father shows up at cosmic central, saying, "All right, I'm ready, I've finally had enough, it's time to destroy the earth's sinners." Jesus has this smirk on his face and is probably doing the chin rubbing thing, saying something like, "They were just here, I know they were, but they seem to be gone now." And the Holy Spirit will be just off to the side snickering. And God will remember how much he really loves these wise guys.

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