Jesus is a beautiful story – there’s no need to be so “Angry about God”

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.

1 John 4:18-19

Over this past month or so I have spent a great deal of time reading out loud to my dad. I’m not sure how much of it he’s getting, but he seems to enjoy the sound of my voice and – once in a while – we actually talk a little about things that come up in the story.

Just last week we finished Katherine Paterson’s classic Newberry Award winning Bridge to Terabithia. It’s been a few years since I last read the novel and I remember now why it was one of my perennial standard selections when I taught middle school.

Church is a good news story:

This morning, preparing to attend worship at HMPC, I can’t help but think about the chapter where the two ten-year-old protagonists, Jesse and Leslie, talk about church.

Leslie (who was raised in a scholarly and extremely secular family) had never been to a worship service. Jesse’s family, however, were deep set in a hard edged religion much like they were rooted in the hard scrabble soil. You believed everything the preacher yelled at you and you absolutely did not ask questions.

Jesse and his younger sisters experienced church as a tiresome burden, and saw Christ’s death as a horrifying lesson designed to make them feel guilty. Whereas Leslie, who went along Easter morning, was fascinated by the Jesus story.

The author picks up the narrative: “It’s crazy, isn’t it?” Leslie shook her head. “You have to believe it, but you hate it. I don’t have to believe it, and I think it’s beautiful.”

Therein lies one of the tragic consequences of what too much of North American religion has done to the gospel message. The story of Jesus is beautiful, yet it has been turned into an angry threat.

If we could only hold out the beauty and the mystery of the Good News, God’s generous invitation, and the way Jesus is love poured out.

Love knows no fear:

I am going to church this morning because Jesus has invited me to participate in the beautiful story of my Creator’s generous love.

– North Carolina writer Derek Maul

If you stay away because the message has been so distorted that you can’t see the light anymore, or find your way to the grace, the mercy and the beauty, then do yourself a favor and find a faith community that is not – as our son Andrew once observed about a street preacher when he was just four years old – “So angry about God.”

Our relationship to our Creator need not be based on fear or judgement, but anchored in the beauty and the joy that comes with the invitation presented by Jesus to “Come Home.” – DEREK

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