last sunday was our male co-pastor's last Sunday to serve as one of our ministers, and he preached a sermon that spoke to me on many levels. he spoke of zacchaeus and his encounter with jesus that changed his life from one of greed and indifference to the suffering of others to one of compassion and generosity, of how it was jesus' calling zacchaeus down from his perch that transformed what would have been a good story for zacchaeus to tell others about his having seen jesus to a story of a life altered beyond anything zacchaeus could have imagined.
one of the illustrations in his sermon troubled me, though. it was a story about a father who came to his son's aid at a time when the son was struggling. the father and son formed a bond which enabled the son to succeed when he would otherwise have failed. the point of the story, of course, was that this is how God acts in our lives, providing a metaphorical shoulder for us to lean on and supporting us in times of crisis. i'm uncomfortable with this image of God, this idea that God is a personal God that jumps in to save us when we are failing. if God acts in this way, why does God help some and ignore others? the implication is that God ignores those whose faith is insufficient, and it is therefore their own fault that God doesn't help them. if it is one's own lack of faith that prevents God from acting, why did those who had enabling faith experience struggle in the first place? why didn't the god in which they had faith simply intervene to change their circumstances, acting on their behalf before they began to experience failure?
our minister referred to God as "daddy" repeatedly, and i had great difficulty with this image. this seems an affront to the concept of the great Creator who is the first cause of all things. in our opening hymn, we sang of God's creation of the mountains and the depths of the sea, and it seems incongruous to think of such a One as "daddy." this "daddy god" seems to be a god who is created in our image, rather than the source of all, the Being in whose image we are created. there are too many "daddies" who are unspeakably cruel for this concept of God to be acceptable to me.
if we acknowledge the existence of a Creator God, may we do so in reverence and respect, with gratitude that we have the opportunity to live as part of the magnificence of creation. may we not revile those who fail as lacking sufficient faith to win a capricious god's favor, and may we understand that we have an obligation to be the source of help for those who need our assistance, not waiting on a "heavenly daddy" to come to their aid. shalom.