Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Whose wrath?

A foretaste of one theme from the next Learning Church - which should have been the last Learning Church - but there you go.

Consider Andromeda.

Isn't she lovely?

Any of you who have seen 'Clash of the Titans' should remember this. The parents of Andromeda have offended the gods. The oracle says that in order to provide recompense, the daughter - whose beauty, being praised as higher than the gods, is the scandal - the daughter must be sacrificed. So she is chained to a rock, there to await her fate of being consumed by the Kraken.

This is the pagan understanding of sacrifice. The gods have their own agenda. Their honour is paramount, and any insult to their honour must be met by sacrifice and the shedding of blood. So we have an angry deity, who needs to be appeased in order for the community to flourish and live in peace.

The Jewish understanding of sacrifice is quite different. According to the Jewish account, God is benign and loving - not vengeful and concerned with his honour (as if anything we do could either raise or diminish the living God's honour!!) So in the ritual of the first temple (see this; James Alison is my source) the priest goes into the Holy of Holies, and comes out - as YHWH - to sprinkle blood upon the people as a sign of their forgiveness.

In other words God acts before we act, to reach out with love to forgive us and enable our lives. The God of the Bible is not a pagan deity. "There is no wrath in God". In God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.

Yet there is a wrathful deity here. There is a sacrifice. So watch this, and ask whose wrath is being satisfied.

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