Who is this God? Christopher Hitchens’ divine tyrant or revealed in Jesus Christ
The Romance of God
Tag Archives: revealed god
The Sovereignty of God and the problem of Pain
The emotional nature of Job’s story
What the revealed God tells us about love
Biblical Text: John 11:17-53
Full Draft of Sermon
Two of the traditional attributes of God are His Sovereignty and His Goodness. This sermon reflects on the conflict those appear to produce today. I can’t help but look at our culture and see a people who are, against what they actually say, aware of God’s sovereignty but don’t believe or trust in His Goodness. Take Christopher Hitchens for a second, his biggest applause line was always, “God’s a bloody tyrant”. His logic doesn’t work. Just because someone is a tyrant doesn’t mean they don’t exist. (Don’t even try, it’s an applause line appealing to felt emotion and not logic.) But, in almost every level of culture the same idea is expressed. Keanu Reeves calls God “a kid with an ant farm” in the B-movie Constantine. A little more heady, the Walking Dead, about a resurrection of sorts, keeps returning to themes of tyranny and tribalism. Only the tribes with a strong leader survive. The mantra of a generation appears to be “don’t judge me” and the noticing of something is taken as akin to tyranny. Nietzsche called Christianity a religion of slaves for a couple of reasons: a) the first reasons was the God used his power on the side of the slaves against the “supermen” but that leads to b) God is the only “superman” or the only tyrant allowed to stand. What these all share is an attribution of power to God, but not goodness. Hence my final line “zombie apocalypse of tyranny”. A God who was only powerful, who was just the resurrection, would do something like that. And that is our cultural bug-a-boo, we still have an idea or a feeling of the power of God, but we have lost faith in the Goodness. And we have lost faith with the Goodness because we have severed ourselves from Christ and the body of Christ.
It is only in the incarnation of Jesus that we can fully observe and take in the goodness of God. Unlike our power, God uses his power for good. And that includes the bestowing of life on all who believe. Jesus is the resurrection (power) and the life (goodness). And that life is not tyranny but “full of grace and truth”. But the only place you find both the resurrection and the life is connected to the body of Christ which is the church. Connected through Word and Sacrament, proclamation of forgiveness and incorporation in water, bread/body and wine/blood. Rejecting the church is rejecting Jesus. Rejecting Jesus is rejecting the goodness of God. The power is still naturally know by looking out the window. But the power alone isn’t enough. We need law and gospel. We need power and goodness. We need the resurrection and the life.
Biblical Text: Matt 2:13-23
Full Sermon Draft
Reading the Gospel of Matthew, especially these early infancy chapters, is a small study in how to read scripture. Matthew’s story and his argument is scriptural. It is also historical based in the life of Israel, but more scriptural because the true meaning of Israel’s history is captured in scripture. The purpose of Matthew’s gospel is to reveal Jesus as the fulfillment of history. And to ponder the strangeness of this revelation that He will be called a Nazarene.
So the opening here is slightly more didactic or teaching in purpose than normal. I think the text invites that, and the context of modern America with all kinds of “Bad Scripture Reading” being paraded as wisdom also calls for it. I hope that the teaching bit helps with the proclamation of the fulfillment passages. My prayer is that being willing to take scripture on its own terms, will open up the grace of God in the midst of horror. And how The Nazarene helps us to receive it.
For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Rom 14:7-9 ESV)
Almighty God and gracious Father. Your ways are beyond our understanding. In your hidden wisdom hopes can be turned from joy to grief. In your mercy, revealed to us in you son Jesus, lead us to pray your will be done. And find comfort in your deliverance from the evil one who afflicts us even in our very members. In Christ, the Lord of the living and the dead, we await the final revelation at the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Two choices with any Special Day sermons, preach the day or preach the text. Preaching the day is by far the more popular. People expect it. It is actually easier (maybe why it is more popular) – no translations to do, find some simple stories preferably cute about the people involved. But I think that puts the cart before the horse with most things Christian. The text or the Word drives the Christian story…drives the Christian. Preaching the day drains it of its vitality. The day becomes just another museum piece. One more birthday, anniversary or commemoration to remember. Preach the text and the living Word might show up.
Russell Saltzman here has heard or given one to many sermons on the Day. He gives some great examples of the species. It is also a great example of loss of hope. When the day has lost its vitality, it can’t inspire hope. The Word that inspires is absent.
Red flag of the parsons own views here – we made/make too much of the politics and the piety that came out of the reformation, and not enough of the original insight. For centuries the camps of Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed have gloried in their people and places and documents. And those things are important, but they don’t capture the complexity of the people – their tragic incompleteness. The original reformation insight allows for that incompleteness, and lets God complete things. And that insight came from the Word.
For no one is justified by works of the law…but now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the the Law – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:19-22).
If you read Saltzman’s last paragraph – he put his hope in the wrong place. Even the church, which will be protected until the end, is an imperfect and incomplete vessel – waiting to be made complete…waiting for the saints to be revealed…waiting for the righteousness of God through faith.
Our time and culture is one of the customized material goods and a generalized God. What I mean by that is we can have our burger our way and get 300 formulas of shampoo, but there are no limits or descriptions that apply universally for God. The culture believes God is love and that is all. Any attempt to say something even as minimal as God is love in Jesus Christ is too restricting for many today. It limits there “searching” ability. It smack of being religious, but not spiritual.
The problem with this is the revelation of God – and the only way we know anything about God is through revelation – the revelation is specific. It is specifically Jesus Christ. When we go spiritually searching we are throwing ourselves against the hidden God. That hidden God promises and delivers nothing. So we often fill it out, customize, that hidden God to our hearts content. When a church points at the very specific Jesus Christ on the cross, the revealed God, it blows away all those false hidden gods of our own making. Which is why the culture only permits a general God – don’t limit my ability to project onto my own hidden god, to search for my god.
But God has revealed himself and everything that is necessary for peace. The revealed God may be humble and gory and slightly embarrassing, but He came to us, and He comes with a purpose and a promise – to reconcile sinners. Jesus, the revealed God on the cross, is the same revealed God who stopped the coronation to weep over Jerusalem. A Jerusalem that preferred its hidden gods to the very God before there eyes.