Lent 2012: Day Forty-Three – Holy Wednesday

Revelation 15:4 Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your judgements have been revealed.’

I haven’t chosen today’s verse from the Book of Revelation because I like it, I’ve chosen it to make a point.

The Bible is full of contradictions. I think this is the best example: Exodus 15:3 The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name. Romans 15:33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Looking at those two verses on war and peace I think its safe to say the Lord as Jesus Christ is indeed a man of peace not a man of war. Yesterday I wrote about the healing of the soldier’s ear. Jesus did not raise an army, he advocated peace. God is peace. The god that people think is of war and rejection of natural beauty does not exist. Those Biblical thinkers that thought that that wrathful god existed had not been enlightened. The whole of the Bible still teaches us a great deal and we need to take it seriously… but not literally.

The verse from Revelation suggests that God and holiness is something to be feared. I’d like to explain why that cannot be true.

First of all I’d like to use one of William Blake’s poems as an example. Written in 1794, “A Poison Tree” still carries meaning for today.

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine.
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

An incredibly blasphemous attack on the oppressive right-wing Church institution of Blake’s time. Blake has presented the narrator of this poem as god, vengeful and himself the cause of The Fall. It is this un-real god that too many hold exist. It is this god which creates human failings. Sin. Blake is completely damning any kind of Church that oppresses people. The wrath is watered, helped to grow, by “fears”. Fears play their part in building up destructive hate. We, in fact, should not be afraid.

Blake did believe in God. But he did not believe in the Church. He did not believe in putting God in a box, and he believed in a God who did not oppress or exclude. God for Blake was a being who was Love.

Liberal Christianity in the Church became more prominent and has grown since the 1900s. So rather unfortunately, Blake won’t have seen much of it. I wonder, if he had, he would have found a place in the Church again.

Thomas Talbott writes on The Inescapable Love of God:

…it’s hard to think of the Creator as a petty tyrant whose sole purpose is to promote his own glory and to do so, at least in part, by subjecting the vast majority of humanity to the eternal fires of hell. And yet, that is just the distorted picture of God that one encounters in the doctrinal standards of many mainline Christian denominations.

What sort of gospel is that? The word “gospel” literally means “good news,” and the early Christians preached the gospel as if it were the best possible news one could imagine. But we humans sometimes find good news hard to accept, and the history of the Christian Church in the West is a sorry record of how easily a message of hope can be twisted into a message of fear.

I hope that as myself, Blake, Talbott and many others believe in the God of Love, this God can arise more prominently in the Church. Because I believe in a Church which encourages people to see the beauty of themselves, and around them, and to love one another and love God. The Church is a diverse place, but a place of love where people can come together to seek true communion, in a community, and to share the beliefs of a deeper life, that’s the Church I want to be in and help to grow if/when I become an ordained priest in it.

As Jesus was always a man of peace and open acceptance, so should we be. Our Church is founded on him after all. To be true to Christ, to God, and to ourselves, we must love, and feel good about that.

And so I reckon the verse of a real and glorious Revelation should read something like this: Lord, we do not fear, we love ourselves for who we are, for who you made us as, and we glorify your name. You are true holiness. All people will come together in praise of you for your love has been raised above our failings of hate. About right?

Perhaps you think I’m a hypocrite. Putting God in a box with the label “Love” on it. But I’m not trying to put God in a box at all. God is beyond our understanding. God is mystery. But I’d say love is God, and the love that we can share is as close to Heaven on Earth as we can get. Being our natural selves, as God made us, is honouring God. Not honouring God is putting people in boxes, and telling them they have to be a certain way. Be you. Love…

Revelation 15:4 Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your judgements have been revealed.’

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