1. What is your image of God? We all have one.
a. Perhaps it is a bearded Obi Wan Kenobi who mysteriously appears to save the day
b. Perhaps it is some type of spirit or light
c. perhaps it is even a powerful woman like your grandmother!
2. As I have related in previous homilies
3. For years my image of God was a man hiding around the corner
i. who would wait until I came,
ii. who would smash me flat with great big mallet,
iii. And then would lean over me and say, “I did that because I love you.”
b. I got that image from the way my parents would treat me when I did something wrong.
c. But although my image of God was my own, the idea behind it isn’t
4. For most of us expect to be punished when we do something evil.
a. Buddhistsand Hindushave their versions of Karma,
i. which teach that the evil that happens to us
ii. is nothing more than the effects of the evil we have committed
iii. either in this life or a past one.
b. Mormons believe that we existed in a spiritual realm before we were born,
i. and that we chose the evil there, that we will experience here,
ii. because it will make us saints.
c. And of course many Christiansbelieve if not quite say, that
d. cancer is God’s punishment for smoking,
e. Cirrhosis of the liver is God’s punishment for drinking,
f. And AIDS is God’s punishment for promiscuity.
5. We all want to believe that life is like a balance;
a. like the scales that we see the statue of the goddess of justice carrying;
6. Because we want to believe life is just;
a. that if we do good, we are blessed, but if we do evil . . .
7. We end up like Job in today’s first reading.
a. We hearJob speak about the drudgery and meaninglessness of his life;
i. But thank God we do not have to see him,
1. sitting on a pile of garbage,
2. his skin covered with open sores,
3. alone because his sons and daughters were killed by accident,
4. and all his property lost in a disaster.
b. The only conclusion we could come to,
c. indeed anyone could have come to given what had happened to him,
d. was that that guy with the mallet sure did get him!
i. He must have been the biggest sinner of all.
8. Except for he wasn’t; and that is the whole point of the story of Job;
a. At the very start of the story Job is declared by God to be blameless.
9. And thus, while the story of Job is set in the context of a divine test,
a. both the people who first heard his story
b. and those of us who hear it now know that this explains nothing.
i. Job was punished because he was good?
ii. God destroyed him because he was blameless?
10. And if thatcan happen
a. What happens to the idea that we get what we deserve,
i. when the evil that happened to Job
1. didn’t just happen to him but to his unknowing family?
ii. When the evil that happens to those who get cancer or become alcoholics or get AIDS,
1. doesn’t just happen to them, but to their families and friends?
b. What happens to that idea
i. When Christians use it like that mallet to punish everyone they judge sinners?
11. What happens is that we see it for what it truly is; a sham of our own creation.
a. For in fact the central insight of the story of Job is that life isn’tjust; it is unjust;
i. evil happens not just to those who deserve it but also to those who do not.
b. And while we might try to explain it by using karma,
c. we might try to explain it by saying we only get what we choose,
d. we might try to explain it by blaming God,
i. In the end it is little wonder that so many people give up on any explanation
ii. for the evil that happens in the world,
e. and even give up on God;
i. because we figure if there is a God,
1. then this is not the way things should be.
12. And you know what? Jesus would agree.
a. For in today’s Gospel Mark gives us an example of a day in the life of Jesus.
i. When Jesus encounters sick people he healsthem
ii. When Jesus encounters evil he drives it out
iii. When Jesus encounters ignorance heteachesandpreaches;
1. because according to him that is what he came to do.
13. let me ask you:
a. What do you think he was saying in those sermons,
b. given what he was doing in his actions?
14. I’ll tell what he was saying:
a. That sickness is not God’s will; wholenessis
b. That evilis not God’s will, goodnessis,
c. That the ignorance that God wants to be corrected
d. is the idea that life is like a simple balance that meets out
e. punishment and blessing like some cosmic candy dispenser.
15. It is little wonderso many people wanted to kill him, and that eventually they succeeded.
a. Because Jesus attacked the very heart of the system of punishment and fear
b. That religions and governments have used throughout history to shame and control us
i. And many still use to this day.
16. It is little wonderthat his disciples believed that he was risen from the dead;
a. Because Jesus’ resurrection is nothing
b. if it is not the exclamation point
i. at the end of his preaching, proclaiming to anyone who will listen
1. that the injustice and evil of this world are NOT what God wants;
2. rather the healing of the world is.
17. It is little wonderthat Jesus left behind him a community of men and women,
a. And that this community, which is called the Church,
i. when it is not busy trying to be God
1. by punishing and judging people,
ii. Seeks to serveGod
1. by continuing Jesus’ preaching and teaching, his healing and forgiving.
2. Creating communities where all are accepted, healed and forgiven.
18. I mean, isn’t that why were all here this morning?
a. Maybe not. Maybe we are here because we believe in the man with mallet too.
i. that if we don’t do right, then God will punish us.
19. Certainly it is what mom and dad tried to teach us; maybe even sister or father.
a. But not Jesus
b. who preached and taught and healed and died and rose and ascended
i. and lives now in his body the church, us,
1. so that people are not judged but forgiven
2. not wounded but healed
3. and do not believe because they fear punishment
4. but are faithful because they believe that God is faithful to them
5. and that means that justice in the midst of our unjust world is coming.
20. Which is what Jesus meant
a. when he gathered people together
b. and fed them
c. and healed them
d. and taught them and said
i. “ the kingdom of God is at hand”,
21. Which is what we mean
a. when we gather every Sunday
b. and we listen and sing and think and question and say those words,
i. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”
22. For the kingdom isn’t somewhere; it is anywhere
a. where justice is restored
b. Where we are made whole
c. and the world is the way God wants it to be.
23. and that means it can even be here.
a. In fact, if not here, then, where?
b. And if not with us, then, with whom?
c. We are the ones who teach the world what years of seminary and spiritual direction and therapy taught me.
d. God isn't the man with the mallet. That is us.
e. God is the one who after we have been smashed flat
i. picks us up and gives us the power to begin again.