Who is God really

 Gate Pa – 3rd March 2013, Lent 3 (Year C)

Hebrew Scripture:      Isaiah 55:1-9             
Psalm:             Psalm  63: 1-8
Epistle:            1 Corinthians 10:1-13            
Gospel:            Luke 13:1-9

What I want to say:
explore how our primary image of God shapes our theology, and our relationship with God, and how we understand life, using Luke 13
What I want to happen:
People to use the rest of Lent to spend time paying attention to their primary images, and how they shape their understanding of God and themselves, and to spend time exploring God’s invitation to move beyond that image.

The Sermon

      1.      Introduction:

someone asked you what Good Friday is about – what would you say?
explore who needed Jesus to die on the cross
            God – what is primary understanding of God that leads to that?
            Us - what is primary understanding of God that leads to that?
These primary images shape our understanding of God, ourselves, what God desires of us and how live our lives
shape answers to whose are we, who are we, and what is ours to do?
primary images help us get into readings heard this morning – esp Luke and Isaiah

      2.      Isaiah 55

second Isaiah – written for exiles
all known how to be people God stripped away
left in Babylon for generation
left wondering - whose are we, who are we, and what is ours to do
when lived Judah – so simple
            all about temple and Jerusalem, line David and kingdom
all of that is now gone
now seemed so hard
left wondering why is this happening?
             if we are people God, why has God abandoned us to this life strange land?
pause for moment and ask “What is their primary image of God?”
God as?
            who rewards those who deserve it and punish those failed/sinned?
clearly see that they have sinned and deserve punishment
reading for us
we entering our own exile
used to be so simple
            hatch, match, dispatch
            provide pastoral care all needed it
            looked after people’s spiritual welfare
            provided focus communities just by being here
now, others match and dispatch
            counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists provide pastoral care – probably good thing
            no longer focus community – most people don’t even know we are here
like exiles in Babylon we left wondering why is this happening to us?
            if we are people God, where is God in all this?
primary image of God will shape our answer to that question.

        3.      What does this passage have to say to them and to us?

What does this passage have to say to them and to us?
passage heard begins with a take on the water sellers sales pitch
goes beyond that
offering more than water
offering more most people dream of
            water, milk, wine, bread, rich food
stuff of wealthy land owner
yet it is offered to all
            no matter how thirsty, how needy
            no matter their ability to pay
unlike ways world they live in
            nothing stifles this gift of God
makes no sense
imagine flack get government ministers with free offer to all
business leaders response to this madness
none of it gained though own efforts
none dependant on their wealth
as Isaiah says - thoughts and ways of God are not our ways
why Isaiah suggest God doing this?
            nothing we strive for through our own efforts and wealth will ever satisfy
true satisfaction only found in God
we started with some images of God
            not ruler
            not judge
this is a radically different image of God
not rewarder of good
            but generous and bountiful provider to all
to those seem deserve it
those normally seen as not deserving it
reshapes understanding who People of God are
            no longer holy people who deserve God’s providence
                        as was thought
            people who invite all receive God’s generous, undeserved and satisfying bounty
            no matter who they are.
So where are we in this
who is God for us in light of this?
is God the loving judge who rewards God ‘s holy people (us) those deserve it
or generous and bountiful provider

        4.      God as Judge

like to say generous and bountiful provider
trouble is that for many of Christians that  God as judge is primary image
people see spiritual direction – who realise much lives tried so hard please God
            earn God’s love
            be deserving God’s goodness
another directee wondered why God allowed friends of hers continue financially struggle
             good Christians
            why didn’t God fix their problems
            they deserve it.

God as judge still powerful image for many of us
            rewards just, holy and good
            punish bad
see this times disaster and calamity
“why has this happened to us/them?”
heard it two years ago in response Dean Peter and Bishop Victoria in Christchurch
God did not cause this
Others used this pronounce God’s judgements
as did Boxing Day Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, Haiti, Japan
this is God’s judgement on you
hear echoes of that in our Gospel reading
these bad things happened because they were sinners
            have been judged by God
that is primary image of God at work here
So Jesus asks are they worse sinners?
and then says
“No I tell you; but unless you repent, you will perish just as they did.”
Jesus seems to reinforce this image of God as a judge
Jesus seems to be saying
            we are all sinners
as bad as those who described
equally deserving of punishment
maybe what saying is that we need to repent of is this image of God as judge
need to stop seeing the world in terms of deserving either of God’s judgement or providence
either of being inside and deserving of God’s love and care and bounty
or outside and deserving of all the bad stuff that happens.

        5.      a fig tree

he tells story about fig tree
uncertain if two stories linked by Jesus
some say yes, some say no
Luke links them, so need to be read in that way, even if not how Jesus told them
a man had a fig tree
deserved dug out
wasted not only water used on it
wasted land it was in
one people Tuesday service said
            if it was my tree I would get rid of it.
            that is what should happen
I think important to remember that Jesus is telling story whole lot people lived under God’s judgement
either see themselves as judged and undeserving  (like the fig tree)
            how many of us see themselves as judged and undeserving  
suffer God’s judgement daily
            ill health
            low status
like the fig tree
            wait, expecting the chop
also speaking those who seemingly judged righteous
            live in consequences of that judgement
            rewarded with health, wealth and high status
they are the ones who would order the tree chopped
that’s how the world worked
that how God – judge operated
what happens next in story is all wrong
            should be chopped
            if let live, leave roots alone
            don’t dig around it
                        confine roots fig tree
doesn’t Jesus or Luke know anything?
instead tree is not chopped
instead roots dug and manure is put on it
manure – all crap
all makes one unworthy
makes one judged
dug in
provides soil by which tree become fruitful
tree does not deserve it, but receives second chance
what picture of God is Jesus offering us his hearers in this story?

        6.      Lent

Isaiah knew that primary image people had God shape hopes
            shape expectations God
            shape response to God
Jesus knew same thing
if God is a judge
            live our lives trying please God
            trying earn Gods love
that is hard work
ultimately fail
picture offered by Isaiah and Jesus is not judge
suggest Jesus wants hearers to repent of that image
not lead to life
not lead to God
Both offer image God does unexpected
image generous life giving God
            giving to all,
                        no matter how deserving
                        for all equally undeserving and equally deserving
and what God gives is what truly satisfies
while all we strive for and seek to earn leaves us unsatisfied
Lent time us pay attention to our primary images of God,
pay attention to how those images shape understanding of both God and ourselves,
paying attention to how we experience and respond to God, who God is inviting to us to become, and we how might live that out.
invite you spend time during rest Lent exploring
what is your primary image of God
            does it lead to life
being open hear God’s invitation to move beyond that image.