Thoughts for Monday 24th August 2020

Psalm 18:1-3, 20-32; 1 Samuel 7:3-13; Romans 2:1-11

Monday 24 August

The way we usually approach a passage such as that from Romans today is to think of ourselves as individuals. And so, we think of God as our judge; we think there’s a need for us to repent; and we think we might become recipients of God’s anger. And that’s okay. I think it’s probably what Paul had in mind when he wrote this passage. Our faith is personal. Our own relationship with God is important. And yet, there’s another way to think about this reading from Romans today:

When we look to 1 Samuel, we see that the God we worship was neither Astarte nor Baal. These were gods that ‘belonged to’ other peoples. These were deities associated with warfare and storms. Our God was different. Our God was kind, tolerant and patient instead (see Romans 2:4). But our God could be angry too (see Romans 2:5 and 2:8). And in order to discover what got (and continues to get) God’s goat, I always think the best place to look isn’t so much the writings of St Paul, good though they are, but the Gospels.

And there are two places in the Gospels where we can read of ‘God in Jesus’ getting angry. They’re both in Mark. The first is at Mark 3:5, and the second is at Mark 10:14. In Mark 3:1-6 we have the story of ‘The Man with the Paralysed Hand’. It’s the Sabbath, and Jesus is angry, not with an individual, but with a group of people called the Pharisees. And he is angry because they are so in thrall to the letter of a specific Jewish Law that they have completely missed the point of the entire Jewish Law i.e. that it’s purpose is to help and to save rather than to harm and destroy.

And then in Mark 10:13-16 we have the story ‘Jesus Blesses Little Children’. When, again, it’s not any one individual who Jesus is angry with, but a group of people. This time it’s the Disciples; who have also completely missed the point of the entire Gospel message, which (because of their vulnerability) prioritises a man with a withered hand over those who are healthy, as well as little children over those who are now all grown up.

Sometimes it is helpful for us to read a passage such as this one from Romans 3, and think of how it might affect us as individuals; but at other times, it is also helpful for us to think about the way in which God’s anger is often directed at what we might call institutionalised sin instead.

Let us pray:

(from INSPIRED BY LOVE AND ANGER by John Bell and Graham Maule)

Inspired by love and anger, disturbed by need and pain,
Informed of God's own bias, we ask him once again:
"How long must some folk suffer? How long can few folk mind?
How long dare vain self-interest turn prayer and pity blind?"

From those forever victims of heartless human greed,
Their cruel plight composes a litany of need:
"Where are the fruits of justice? Where are the signs of peace?
When is the day when prisoners and dreams find their release?"

From those forever shackled to what their wealth can buy,
The fear of lost advantage provoke the bitter cry:
"Don't query our position! Don't criticise our wealth!
Don't mention those exploited by politics and stealth!"

To God, who through the prophets proclaimed a different age,
We offer earth's indifference, its agony and rage:
"When will the wronged by righted? When will the kingdom come?
When will the world be generous to all instead of some?"

Amen.

 


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