I have a few questions for you during these lazy days of July: Why do you go to church? Do you go to be berated? To be told how bad and dirty you are? Do you go to have your pail shoveled full of guilt so you can wallow in it for another week? Do you go to be frightened into something? I’ve heard it said that a fool and his money is soon parted. Maybe you go to church because you have an irresistible desire to put all your gold into the offering [we’ll take it]! Do you go to church to hear a spin doctor tell you how wretched you are so that you can enter into a little self-mutilation and thereby find vicarious relief?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, I must tell you something straight up: you are sick; that is, all except for the gold. The entire Biblical witness is one of Divine romance. It is the story of God’s love affair with God’s people and God’s world. The people sinned in the garden and God said that they would surely die. But instead, God restrained God’s judgment and maintained relationship.
One brother murders another and what does God do? Does God throw the guilty party into a jail? Does God lock the door and throw away the key? No, God marks him so he will be protected. The whole world becomes so bad that there is no hope and God decides to do away with everyone and everything, but in the darkness the light of eight people shines. The animals are brought on board two-by-two or seven-by-seven, depending on how you read the text, and life goes on.
There is no denying it. From the beginning of time to this very day, God has been romancing God’s people. God has been telling us how much God loves us. God has been setting us up to succeed not fail, to breathe not suffocate, to live not die. We are not sinners in the hands of an angry God, as New England Puritan theologian, Jonathan Edwards, once touted. Instead, we are in all our sinfulness, rebellion, faithlessness, doubt, anger, and apathy the best that God has. In spite of all, God loves us!
Over the years I have learned that we can run from God, but God will never run from us. We can hide in a darkness of our own making, but God will lighten up every corner round about. We can withdraw into self-derogatory, self-flagellating, self-denying forms of behavior that cut us off from our true selves. Even then, God appears in the midst of our void, romancing us once again back into relationship. All I can say is thanks be to God!