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In the End, God Gives Us What We Want
Reflecting on the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: One Day after Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Old Testament: Genesis 27:30-46
Epistle: Romans 1:18-25
Psalter: Psalm 131
Old Testament: Jeremiah 27:1-11, 16-22
Epistle: Romans 1:18-25
Holy One, hear our prayers and make us faithful stewards of the fragile bounty of this earth so that we may be entrusted with the riches of heaven. Amen.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and injustice of those who by their injustice suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. Ever since the creation of the world God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been seen and understood through the things God has made. So they are without excuse, for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen (Romans 1:18-25).
Many people mischaracterize God’s wrath as a thunderbolt throwing deity striking anyone who gets out of line. It is a portrait of an angry being waiting to insinerate those who are disobedient. Isn’t any wonder that there are those who reject such a notion of divine wrath?
But that is not how Paul understands the wrath of God. In Romans 1:18-25, the apostle makes two points. The first is that human beings almost seem to have an innate tendency to make the creator the creation, to bring the creator down making him like us or other earthly creatures. In good Jewish fashion, Paul believed that human beings should look at creation and know that there is someone above creation that made all things, someone different from creation.
Yet human beings seem to want to try to comprehend the creator by understanding the creator as creation itself. Paul says that we "have exchanged the glory of the immortal god for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four footed animals or reptiles. Women and men are incurably religious. We are innately drawn to idol worship. It was the philosopher Voltaire who said, “In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.”
The second point Paul makes is that the wrath of God is not God doing something to us, but rather God-giving us what we want. Be careful what you ask for you just might get it. According to Paul, there comes a point where God gives us over to our worst selves, that God takes his hand off us allowing us to have what we want. God in the end allows us the freedom to have things our own way, but often that freedom turns into disaster because our ways are not the ways of God.
For Paul, God has ordered this world in a certain way and when we do not live in keeping with the order of things, the moral universe stands in judgment over us in our freedom. God gives us what we want and we experience the kind of life that is not in keeping with the divine order. In judgment, God gives us what we want because we have rejected what we should have accepted at the hands of the God who loves us.
There’s an old hymn that says,
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.
God desires to mold, form, and shape us into something beautiful. But, if we desire to remain a shapeless lump of our own desires, God will allow that to happen.
In his book, The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis writes,
There are only two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.‘
In the final analysis, judgment is God giving us what we want.
PRAYER: Life-giving God, heal our lives, that we may acknowledge your wonderful deeds and offer you thanks from generation to generation through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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