#TheCharacterofGod is the Podcast for August 7, 2016. No one likes a hypocrite. What makes you think that God likes them? No one likes a false religious leader. What makes you think God likes them? Listen here in this reflection: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Hypocrites #TheFathersPleasure #GiveYouTheKingdom #FatherTrustsYou #FatherServestheSlaves #IdeaofGodonItsHead
The Character of God: Luke 12:32-40
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 8/7/216 The 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 and Luke 12:32-40.
What is going on here?!?
Seriously, what is going on here in this passage from Isaiah? God says through the prophet Isaiah, “I hate your sacrifices. I hate your offerings. I hate the blood of lambs and goats. I hate the incense that you light. I hate all the festivals and special religious days you set up.”
One could be a little confused here because there is an entire book of the Bible dedicated to how to sacrifice, how to offer the blood of lambs and goats, how to light incense with our prayers, and all the days that we are supposed to set aside for being holy. There is one entire book that outlines all those things that God said explicitly he wants us to do. Yet, now he tells Isaiah to tell us, “Stop it!”
So, why would he say otherwise? Why now, through the prophet Isaiah would he say not to do those things? Did God change his mind and he does not want us to make sacrifices to him? It might seem so, except for something that is so basic and true about us, and ultimately about God.
Let me ask you, do you like people who are hypocrites? You know, there are people who say we should do one thing and they do another? Or, people who make one set of rules and insist that everyone else follow them? Sometimes we call them our boss. Sometimes they are the people who make contracts with us. Sometimes they are our brothers or sisters. Sometimes they are our parents. If there is a parent [here] who has had teen agers who has not been nabbed for being a hypocrite, then you haven’t had a teenager. (of course, not all teens are this, ahem).
Who [here] likes hypocrites? If you cannot stand hypocrites, then you are in good company because God hates hypocrisy, too. That is why he tells Isaiah basically that it is not enough to stand before God and confess our sins and tell him he is wonderful. No. We must also, “cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” When someone stands before God and offers any kind of offering, there is no offering more important than the offering of loving God AND loving neighbor.
I often meet people who tell me how awful all the religious people they know are, and with good reason. Yet, what confuses me is how people could possibly think that awful religious people are what God wants. Or, when something bad happens to us at the hands of a hypocrite, let’s say, we act as though that is something that God wants. The fact of the matter is that when the person who hurts others or is awful comes before God, he is as repulsed as we are.
These passages today, from Isaiah and Luke, tell us a lot about God, even the reading from Hebrews 11 today, too. They tell us about the character of God. God doesn’t like two faced activity. It repulses him. God likes us to be true. We will come back to that truthfulness with God in a minute.
The passage from Luke tells us something about God, even though I imagine that many homilies or sermons for this weekend will get stuck on the message that we should do good to others, be heavenly in our actions, and for us to store up for ourselves treasure in heaven instead of being greedy. These things are all true and I do not want to reduce them, but for our purposes today, I want us to notice the nature of the Father in Heaven in this passage.
First, look at how Jesus premises this passage. He says, “Do not be afraid.” The Father doesn’t want us cowering in fear. In fact, our Lord tells us, “for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Isn’t that great? I can just see God as this laughing, smiling, happy Father who has this great gift, and he can’t contain himself until he gives it to us. Rather than the notion we often have of an angry God counting our sins, Jesus presents us here with a laughing and joyful Father ‘whose pleasure’ it is to give us “the kingdom”, the entire thing!
Not only that, Jesus tells us that the Father wants us to be ready. He wants us to be “dressed for action.” Hmmm, whenever someone tells me to “be ready”, it usually means “be ready when I need you.” It implies a job to be done and an implicit trust. It says to me, “Be ready because I trust you with my mission.” The Father is saying, “I need you to be ready. I want you to be ready. You are important to me.” Even more than that, the Lord is saying that the Father in Heaven respects us. Heck, I can’t get respect from my own dog sometimes! Yet, the Creator of the Universe respects me enough to trust me with his mission. He trusts you, too.
Furthermore, look at how that mean old God treats his “slaves.” There is a word that could escalate quickly: slaves. Yet, look at how the Father in heaven treats his slaves, says Jesus, “when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.” The Father in heaven turns our notions of who he is and what it means to be in his Church on its head. The Lord serves us out of his “pleasure” because he wants to love us.
So, we have a God, a Father in Heaven, who hates hypocrisy and being two faced as much as we do. We have a Father in Heaven whose pleasure it is to give good things to us, in particular the Kingdom. We have a Father in Heaven who trusts us with his mission. We have a Father who serves us. This is the character of God.
There is one more thing you need to know. It is that in the respect that God has for us, he will not force us to do what he wants us to do. When we force others to do things, it is not usually out of respect. God is not about power. Sure, for centuries, the Church has misunderstood and mistaken love with power and order. The truth has always been that being in a faith community is messy. If you don’t believe it, then just go read 1 and 2 Corinthians. Or, read how angry Paul is with the Church at Galatia. Or, look at what kind of a motely crew the people of the Church at Ephesus were before they came to Jesus Christ.
Human beings are a mess. We think we are like God. We think we know better than God. We end up making unbaked cakes thinking that a little frosting will cover up the mess. We think that God is negative, punitive, and unkind because that is basically what we experience from each other. Yet, the Father in Heaven has transformed what it means to be human. He has done so by offering Jesus Christ for our sins. He has done so by inviting us to be baptized into his Son. He has transformed us by gathering us into a community called Church that seeks to transcend all those awful ways of existence.
So, as you go through your week this week. Think of this laughing, happy, Father in Heaven who loves you. Think of how different he is compared to what everyone else says about him. Think of how different he is than what we think of him. Think of how different he is than the character the world has cast him to be in an angry play where he is to be rejected. God is not a character. He has character. He wants us to enjoy him, love him, and rejoice in him. It is his pleasure. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian