The street-corner preacher

I was walking in the downtown area of one of our cities recently. On a street-corner a little band of Christians were standing together. A speaker was standing on a make-shift “pulpit” with a microphone in hand, loudly proclaiming, “GOD IS ANGRY!” Beside him, one of the gathering carried a large placard that spelling in bold colorful letters, “God is Angry”. . .and under the title followed the list of things that God was angry at: Drugs, Alcohol, Liberalism, Evolution, Homosexuality, Divorce, Abortion. . .” and the list went on and on.

I passed on the offer of literature. It was at that moment, embarrassing to be a part of a Christian faith community. Because, of course, the street corner preacher is not alone. When you think about it, while the church’s message has not been that loud or that blatant, the “God is angry” message has often been proclaimed by our Christian communities. Has it not be one of the ways the church has often frightened people into obedience? Isn’t the hell-fire and damnation preaching of any era simply a “God is angry” message.

I come back, time and again, to the Gospel, in particular to Jesus’ story about the heart of God in Luke chapter 15. I tell it to our faith community in Saskatchewan, a community familiar with family farms and distance and country roads this way::

There was a farmer who had two sons. The younger son said to the father, “I’m sick and tired of this place. Sick and tired of all the rules of this place. Sick and tired of you. Give me what you owe me, Dad, and I’ll go get a real life!” So the father let him go. He gave the young man his share of the inheritance. The young man bought a cherry red Corvette and a new saxophone and headed for the City.

No one knows what he did there. Did he try to make a living off his music? Did he invest in a get-rich quick scheme? What did finally happen is this: the economy went sour, and the young man found himself on the street, playing his saxophone for the loose change passers-by would toss into his instrument case. Finally, the young man said to himself, “I’m no good for nothing. I’m no good for nothing. I’m no good for nothing.” But I know that my father has hired hands who at least have food to eat. So he went to a local church, told the pastor there that his father was dying and he just needed enough money for the bus ticket home. As the Greyhound left the station and all the way home the young man told himself, “I’m no good for nothing, I’m no good for nothing. I’m no good for nothing, Dad. But would you let me at least stay in the bunkhouse as a hired hand.”

The Greyhound bus drove all night and finally dropped the young man off on the gravel road near the place that once was home. The young man walked down the road saying, “I’m no good for nothing, I’m no good for nothing. I’m no good for nothing, Dad. But would you let me stay in the bunkhouse as a hired hand.” Halfway down the gravel road, he looked up to see his father running down the road in his house-coat, half his face shaven, the other with the shaving cream still clinging to his face. As they drew near each other, the young man said, “I’m no good for nothing. . .” But his father shook his head and said, “You are my son. I’ve loved you since your first breath. I’ll love you till your last breath. I’ll love you forever.” 

God is love.

Return of the Prodigal son (1662) by Rembrandt, downloaded on March 1, 2007 from www.biblical-art.comrembrandt

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