Thursday, March 24, 2005

God, or the Devil?

In his challenging work Naked Before God: The Return of a Broken Disciple, Bill Williams tells a story that is worth retelling this Holy Week. It's a story of an encounter between his wife, Martha, and one of her Sunday school students. Martha had built a powerful rapport with her students - they felt safe and loved in her presence, and they worked hard...and they developed a very special rapport with Martha. That trust, and that love, are probably why this piece of truth got spoken.

These words are Bill Williams - and yet they are also mine:

One Sunday, Martha asked her kids what they thought about God. They did what kids usually do when you ask an open-ended question. They rolled their eyes and looked dumb. It always takes some work to get the water flowing.

"Well," she said, going for the most basic thing she could think of, "is he good, bad, or what?"

One of them - we'll call him Timothy - looked at her and said something a lot of Sunday school teachers will never hear, because they are not Martha.

"Well," Timothy said, "God killed his son."

Shut your ears, Timothy! You're listening too well. That fig tree won't bear you any fruit, Tim. You just hold on to the notion that God is good, not evil, and that loving you doesn't mean he wants to kill you. If you let that filth in, you'll spend the rest of your life trying to scrape it off. When they start to bleat their poison in the big room, you just plug your ears and chant with me:
God is good. God is good. God is good. That will be our measuring stick, you and me. If anything doesn't measure up to that, you'll know it's broken. This is your basic wiring, child. You won't be able to bulk-erase it later - take it from me, I've tried and tried. Tim you just stay away from that piece of hate and don't ever let it touch your heart or you'll end up as crippled as I am can't you see the way I've struggled and I'm still being dragged down to hell....

Don't believe that God is the Devil, no matter what your church says.

God is good
God is good
God is good
God is good
God is good
God is good...

I'm chanting right with you, Bill.


Faust said...

Jesus is God, Prophet, King, Priest, and offering. Its easy to forget that he is all of those at the same time. It is easy to move from "both/and" thinking to "either/or" thinking.

Michael Dodd said...

This reminds me of a retreat I worked on as a seminarian in the mid-1970s. We asked people to try to remember their first image of God. Since this was a group of Catholics, many mentioned the cruficifx over the altar or the tabernacle where the Eucharist was reserved or one of the stained glass windows. One young woman, though, said her first image of God was someone who didn't like little girls. This was because she had wanted to be an altar server (way back when this was unheard of), had memorized the difficult Latin better than any of the boys, learned the way to serve Mass, and then was told God only wanted little boys. The teacher who said that to her meant no harm, I am sure. But what that child learned and took years to unlearn was that God didn't want little girls.
God didn't kill his son. We did. Not the Jews, not the Romans. You. Me. God loved the son back into life. Amazingly, God is willing to love the Jews, the Romans, you and me back into life, too. Who would have thought?