Don’t Make Dad Angry

Dealing with Your Daddy Issues, Part Two of Four

Luke 13.1-9


There are few things as scary for a kid as seeing one of their parents lose their temper.  The safe, secure world that has been created for them by their parents is temporarily shattered.   With most parents, the loss of temper is infrequent and the child’s sense of security returns relatively soon.  But if the parent is cyclical in losing their temper and acting out in violent ways, the child never has a sense of peace and security.  The best they can do is manage their fear and try to appease the out-of-control parent.

Historically, fathers were understood to be feared by their children and their wives.  They weren’t supposed to terrify their family, but the family knew that if they crossed him, there would be punishment in some form.  His loss of temper and use of violence were considered proper instruments of his authoritarian governance over the household.  The mother’s role was to nurture the children and tell them that everything was going to be OK and soothe away the father’s anger.

It’s no wonder that the development of our theology of God as divine patriarch would mirror our understanding of fatherhood.  Scripture is peppered with verses like this:

And these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. And in that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed.  Deuteronomy 31.16b-17a

So we’re instructed to be good and do right in order to keep God pleased.  And if we mess up and hurt ourselves or others, than we should fully expect to at least get a good whoopin’ by God; and if we don’t ever straighten up and get right, then we don’t even want to know what Big Daddy is going to do to us.

In Luke 13, Jesus gets asked about God’s whoopins.  “Jesus, did you hear about how occupying Governor Pilate sent his troops into the temple and slaughtered a bunch of redneck Galilean Jews while they were offering sacrifices?  And what about those hipster Jerusalem Jews who died because they happened to be walking by the Tower of Siloam when it collapsed:  the people who died deserved it, right?”

Jesus stuns them.  He says in the most emphatic way, “NO! God had nothing to do with those events.”  This is a huge statement by Jesus contradicting conventional wisdom and directly disagreeing with settled theology on the doctrine of God.  In John 9, his disciples point out a blind man to Jesus and asked him, “Who sinned?  He or his parents?”  The assumption is that God punished this man because someone messed up–big time.  Jesus replied, “Neither.  God didn’t cause his blindness.”

There is something in our theology and religion that tells us that it is important that we fear God’s punishment and that we should obey him to avoid punishment and, hopefully, gain some blessings.  Jesus categorically denies this viewpoint.  And he denies it by giving this brief parable:

A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil? 

He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’  Luke 13.6-9, NRSV

Typically, we would see the man who owned the land and supervised the vineyard as the God/Father figure.  He put the tree there and expected it to produce fruit.  And as the owner of the vineyard, he would be expected to get rid of unproductive trees.  But look closer at the story in the context of the conversation in the first few verses.  God is actually the gardener.  Someone else wants to get rid of the tree, but God says, “Hold on.  Don’t give up on it yet.  I’ve been working with it and I think it’s going to pull through and produce for you.  Let me have another year with it.”  Everyone was used to dealing with God as the impatient land owner and Jesus comes and says, “God is a gardener.  His delight is in nurturing each plant and tree into something beautiful and vibrant.  He doesn’t view the tree as something to be used and discarded, but as something to be nurtured into something vibrant and glorious. ”  And Jesus moves our understanding away from the God-As-Punisher-of-Non-Producers to the God-as-Dad-Who-Nurtures-and-Sacrifices-for-his-Creation.

Jesus does talk about the need to have fear and gives a strong call to the crowd to turn around and follow God.  After he mentions Pilate’s massacre and the tower disaster, he says, “The time to repent is right now. If you don’t, you’re going to perish.”  But notice what he doesn’t say.  He doesn’t say, “If you don’t, God’s going to get you!”  He doesn’t say, “You think Pilate’s bad?  Wait unitl you get a load of my dad!”  He simply says that we need to change our ways before time runs out.

The One that Jesus says we need to fear and hate is Evil.  We are the victims of the moral evils of people  and systems like Pilate and the Roman empire; and we’re victims of the natural evils of disasters like a tower collapse or a tsunami.  Evil swirls all around us.  Jesus urgently calls us to despise the attitudes, behaviors and systems that perpetuate moral evil upon others and to fight against them by overcoming evil with good, i.e., repenting of our participation in or passive indifference towards evil and turning back to God.  And he asks us to recognize the frailty of life and to join him and his gardener Father in the work of tending to the vineyard while we have time.

When Jesus and his disciples saw the man born blind in John 9, Jesus says, “This isn’t an opportunity for theological debate.  This dear man gives us an opportunity to display the magnificent work of my father in his life.”  Then Jesus restores his eyesight.  Evil is overcome with good.  Jesus, in a sense, repented in that moment.  He could have walked by and let evil continue.  Instead, he hates evil so much that he turns to the man and destroys the effects of evil with the superior strength of goodness.

It’s time to repent, but maybe not in they way we’ve thought before.  It’s time to repent of our wrong view of Father God.  And it’s time to repent of the ways in which we perpetuate or don’t stop evil in our spheres of influence.  Who knows how much time we have left.  Let’s get serious about overcoming evil with good.  And let’s trust that all the while, the Father’s on his knees working our soil, pruning our branches, watering our roots and working for our vibrancy and glory.

Jesus: Not What We Imagined, Part Two

Lamb Instead of Lion

Luke 3.15-17, 21-22

I don’t know about you, but for the longest time the story of Jesus’ baptism caught me off guard.  I grew up understanding that baptism was something that was needed by us mere mortals.  We’re the ones who keep messing up, keep hurting others and keep hurting ourselves.  We need to be saved from our sins.  Baptism washes away our sins.  And we want to live forever with God and baptism is what makes that happen.  When we go under the water, we die to our mortal life and when we rise up, we embrace the immortal life offered to us by God through Jesus.

My understanding of Jesus was that he wasn’t a mere mortal and he didn’t sin.  So why did he need to get baptized?  It’s an odd moment if you were taught the bible the way I was.

But over the last few years I’ve discovered that there is a drastically different way to read Jesus’ baptism that harmonizes powerfully with the most important stories of scripture and tells us something profound about who Jesus was and what his mission would be.  If you look at the elements of the Baptism Story you will see amazing similarities to the Creation Poetry in Genesis 1, the Flood Epic in Genesis 6-8, the Exodus Journey of, well, Exodus, and (though it’s not listed in the table below) the Entrance into the Promised Land in Joshua.





Event Chaos/Wild/Water Spirit/Dove/Wind Sky/Light/Fire God Speaks God Honors/Promises
Creation/Earth Genesis 1.2 Genesis 1.2 Genesis 1.3, 8 Genesis 1.3ff Genesis 1.4ff
Flood/Noah Genesis 7.11-24 Genesis 8.1, 8-12 Genesis 9.8-17 Genesis 9.8-17 Genesis 6.9; 9.8-17
Exodus/Moses Exodus 13.18 Exodus 14.21 Exodus 13.21 Exodus 14.1-4ff Exodus 6.2-8
Baptism/Jesus Mark 1.9-10 Luke 3.22 Luke 3.21 Luke 3.22 Luke 3.22

In Jesus’ baptism,

  • He enters into the rushing waters of the Jordan like
    • God went into the waters at Creation
    • Noah enters the water during the flood
    • Moses enters the Red Sea with the Israelites
  • The Spirit moves on him like
    • The Spirit hovering over the waters of Creation
    • The wind blowing the floodwaters away and the dove flight confirming the earth was dry
    • The wind blowing open a pathway through the Red Sea for Israelites
  • Something new or unusual happens in the sky after Jesus is baptized like
    • The creation of light and sky at Creation
    • The appearance of a rainbow after the flood
    • The pillar of cloud and fire that led the Israelites out of Egypt
  • We hear God speak to Jesus like
    • When he spoke the elements of Creation into existence
    • When he talks to Noah after the flood
    • When he gives direction to Moses to lead his people through the Red Sea
  • We hear God’s honoring and comforting words to Jesus like
    • His expression of pleasure with his Creation
    • His promise to Noah to never send a worldwide flood upon the earth again
    • His compassionate words promising deliverance to Moses and the Israelites

When we see Jesus symbolically living out the mighty acts of God through his baptism, we recognize that what is happening as Jesus begins his ministry among us is just as mighty of an act, if not greater, than God’s act of Creation, God’s act of new Creation after the Flood and God’s act of Deliverance at the Exodus.

  • Jesus is the new Creator, bringing order to his creation out the the swirling chaos of the world
  • Jesus is the new Noah, bringing his people safely to a new earth without the threat of further destruction
  • Jesus is the new Moses, lead his people out of captivity and into freedom
  • Jesus is the new Joshua (Jesus is actually the Greek parallel name to Joshua) leading his people into the promised kingdom of God

But what we find as well is that Jesus is coming not as a lion to visit his empirical violence upon a sinful world, but rather as a person who brings gentleness and peace to a tumultuous world.  He comes as a lamb.  John the Baptizer refers to Jesus this way.  He says, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  Amazing that God’s next mighty act comes not with shock and awe but with humility, gentleness and peace.  But not so amazing if you look back at the way God works.  He comes close, he suffers with his creation and people, he brings calm and order after the storm of evil and wickedness.  Jesus as God’s instrument of peace is exactly like how God was in the most amazing stories of scripture.

May you recognize that you are part of the mighty acts of God every time you reflect on your baptism or consider being baptized.  May you recognize the glory of the Lamb every time you reflect on his humble, sacrificial deliverance.   And may you know the peace of God that passes all understanding and that will guard your hearts until the day of Christ Jesus.

ReconcileRestore: An Attitude, A Way of Life

It is a great privilege to be a part of the Glendale City Seventh-day Adventist Church. This post is the first in what will be a tradition of fostering dialogue beyond the sermons I share each week. As the MP3 files are uploaded to our church website, I will link to those as well for those who missed it or want to listen again. I look forward to the discussions to come!

OCTOBER 13, 2012, ReconcileRestore: An Attitude, A Way of Life

Audio File:

Passage: 2 Corinthians 5.14-6.2

This passage has been a sort of mission statement of mine for many years now. It has continued to challenge how I understand God’s posture towards humanity and what it calls me to do as an ambassador of God’s grace revealed in Jesus Christ. I have summed up this mission statement as “ReconcileRestore”–that God is in the process of bringing all people back to himself and that he is making everyone and everything NEW. My role as a follower of Jesus is, then, to view people as new creations and to communicate God’s acceptance of them and share the good news of the work that is being done in their lives through the Holy Spirit.

As a church, I believe we are called to be a community of faith that goes beyond good manners, that goes beyond feel-good progressive theology towards a radical hospitality that creates an open-door environment of acceptance and love, that actively pursues relationships outside the walls of our church, and that tenaciously holds on to friendships when people exhibit annoyng or unsetting behaviors or attitudes. Doing the deep work of pushing our friendship through our differences and weaknesses to true brother- and sisterhood is, I believe, the call of radical hospitality that is proclaimed in this passage.

What excites me about joining the faith community of Glendale City is that this congregation has already exhibited radical hospitality in a number of ways over the years and I can’t wait to see us continue to expand the reconciling-restoring ministry of Jesus to our city, in our families and at our places of work.

What do you understand the reconciliation of God to be? How do we partner as God’s ambassadors in this work? What does viewing people as “new creations” look like on a practical level? I look forward to your thoughts on these questions as well as any other thoughts that were sparked during worship

Dude, Relax

Worship Presentation at Vallejo Drive Church on September 29, 2012

Dude, Relax

The Fear-Hate-Punishment Industrial Complex

Vallejo Drive Church: Recorded on 5/5/2012 recorded on USTREAM

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Dealing with Your Daddy Issues

Vallejo Drive Church: February 25, 2012 recorded on USTREAM. Presentation begins at 3:00

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Treachery: Christmas as Coup d’etat

Vallejo Drive Church: Recorded on 12/17/2011 on USTREAM

Vodpod videos no longer available.