“Our wild and wooly God”
Taken together, all three readings this week really rattle our images of God. In the book of Exodus, Moses has to talk God down from the ledge, pleading with God not to destroy the Hebrew people even though they have lapsed into worship of the golden calf. In contrast, the extended version of Luke’s gospel includes the parable of the prodigal son – a story in which Mercy is the defining characteristic of God even to the point of turning human concepts of justice and fair play right on their heads.
But wait, there’s more. In the first part of the gospel reading God is imaged as a woman, frantically searching her house for a lost coin. God is like a shepherd, a figure who ranks on the lowest rungs of the social order of Jesus’ day. A far cry from the wealthy landowner who represents God in the parable of the prodigal son.
And don’t forget about Paul’s letter to Timothy in which Paul professes how God sought him out even while he was a “blasphemer”, persecuting the movement which would come to be known as Christianity. Seems we’ve come a long way from the God who blew up over a relatively mild blasephemy in comparison to Paul’s.
So who is this God we worship and who revealed him/herself fully in the person of Jesus Christ? Lots of commentaries have been written exploring the intricaces of all of these passages but one point captures my imagination at the moment when I look at them all together. About the only thing we can be certain of is that whatever our images of God happens to be at the moment, they are woefully inadequate and quite possibly stupid. And however inadequate or stupid the other guy/gal’s image seems to be, there’s probably some truth in it.
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
(You can find my books which contain more complete reflections and commentaries on the Bible at www.twentythirdpublications.com)