From the dais rang words of condemnation and retribution!
From the pulpit words of hell fire and brimstone rained down on our young heads!
Dammed to hell,
Born out of sin,
Forgotten by God,
Destined for eternal torment,
Unless we repented that very moment!
Falling on our knees and
praying that our Lord forgive us our sinful nature!
Well you bet we all got up off our chairs, and ran to the front crying for forgiveness - we ran out of fear of a God that was going to strike us down that very minute because we were not like the blessed, whoever they were.
Then when there was no holy fire, no lighting, no sudden assentation either to heaven or to hell, we were left confused, embarrassed and angry. We had been tricked.
This experience as a child visiting in a distant relative’s church, left us filled with concern, worry and mortal fear.
Instead of finding a faith that lifted us up, that called us to sit at Christ’s feet in love and encouragement, we were left crying in our bedrooms overwhelmed by rules, and religious dogma.
This memory was brought to consciousness in today’s service where we were reminded that Christ walks with us each day in love through the people we will meet.
That we are the works of God’s own hand and thus we always walk within God’s love and mercy, sinner and saved alike.
As an adolescent it was only when I understood that God loved my uniqueness that my spiritual desire to follow and serve in love was born.
When I understood that it was not my sameness with others or my blind following of religious dogmas that was desired of me that a faith based fear melted and I knew the unconditional love of my God.
I was made alive by my God, created with unique gifts and abilities, with the potential to love and give back as I meet Christ daily in the face of a crying child, the worry of an elderly woman, in the request for help from a homeless youth.
It is not about the rules and dogma it is about love, every child knows this.
Lectionary readings Genesis 18:20-32, Psalm 138, Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19), Luke 11:1-3