Its been a good week - calm and pleasant for the most part. A busy one too, as I wrote a few days ago. So many opportunities to see the beauty of creation around us - to find God in our day to day lives. None more so than here, on this blog. I am so thankful for the kind and wise comments from last week's post. They truly helped me to calm my thoughts, and find some perspective on the words that I was struggling with. I mentioned the fact that our congregation is without a pastor at the moment, and how that impacts on my own understanding of some of the sermons we hear, week on week, and posting here, and reading the responses has made a difference.
I am very prone to agonising over issues - like a dog with a bone, I keep going back to situations in my mind and worrying over them - in a sense, reliving them. Time and time again, I replay conversations, things read or listened to, over and over in my head. Now - reflection is good, but obsession is not, and each time I do this - I am still stuck in the situation. It's like that comedy film - Groundhog Day - remember that?
All week, I have prayed, read, talked about and fretted about the ideas and challenges that I found in last weeks sermon delivery. "It's not right. We have no spiritual backup to help us understand. Is this really the message God wants us to hear? What is the message anyway? Speak to me!" But, by the end of the week,though I had worked off most of my angst, and so, this morning, we set off for church.
The preacher was one we had had several times before, and I am ashamed to say that, as far as I was concerned, he had form. The reading was announced - Genesis 19 - the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah - Groundhog Day. The sermon began and for the rest of the service, I felt harangued and blasted, as we were urged to "Run! Run from the wrath of God!". Don't get me wrong - it was a clever sermon - very well delivered, and this man puts himself out there, preaching the Word, which is more than I have ever done. It is also a wonderful piece of scripture to get your teeth into - google it and there are any number of interesting pieces that are written about the tragedy of Lot's wife. But, today's message was full of our sin, God's anger, and how we are all doomed. Not much mention of love or grace, or forgiveness, and so again - I am left feeling hopeless - almost feeling I am a fake Christian. Maybe I am and this is the message God is sending me. Am I Lot's wife because I am looking forward to a family holiday, and planning what seeds I will sow in Spring? How can I be truly saved if I entertain such worldly thoughts?
My poor husband listened patiently while I "reflected" out loud all afternoon. He suggested that I take some things too literally, and this was a case in point. And he is right. We have to live in the world, and are part of the world, and that God created the world - it is not all bad, and a lot of it is good. We must live our lives as the best Christians we can be - loving God and our neighbour. Yes, plant seeds - plant trees even - go and visit family, just don't leave God out of your plans!
I wondered if I was someone hovering on the brink of Christianity today - how would hearing this have affected me? I might have been scared witless and slunk off, thinking it was all to much to deal with - to difficult to be acceptable. I really don't believe it is helpful to preach in such a hectoring way. Our congregations is much reduced during our time of vacancy, and most of us still attending are believers, and I think we need to be encouraged and uplifted. I came to faith through a Loving God and the Compassion of Jesus. Yes, I have been challenged many times, by the Word of God but not brow beaten and humiliated. Jesus endured all that through His Love for us, so we would not have to. Yet - if I felt uncomfortable today, well, it wasn't exactly comfortable up there on that cross, where he felt the wrath of God on my behalf.
I still have many questions to resolve with this "fire and brimstone" issue that I seem to be stuck on at the moment, but I'll keep looking and listening for the answers, and I will stop obsessing over it. Already, writing this out has clarified a few points for me, and I feel a sense of peace - thank You God. And thank you for reading - I wish you God's blessing on your week ahead.