Going Deeper 7-23-19

‚ÄčThe first reading for Pentecost 7...
Genesis 18:20-32   Then the Lord said, "How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin!  I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know."  So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord.  Then Abraham came near and said, "Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?  Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it?  Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked!  Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?"  And the Lord said, "If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake."  Abraham answered, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.  Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking?  Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?"  And he said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there."  Again he spoke to him, "Suppose forty are found there."  He answered, "For the sake of forty I will not do it."  Then he said, "Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there." He answered, "I will not do it, if I find thirty there."  He said, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord.  Suppose twenty are found there."  He answered, "For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it."  Then he said, "Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more.  Suppose ten are found there."  He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it."

I am increasingly convinced of the need to move beyond what has been called "dualistic" thinking when it comes to our quest to better understand God and His ways.  Dualistic thinking tends to divide things into opposites.  Something is either long or short, thin or wide, black or white.   This is an either/or mindset, which works for many things and in many situations.  But it does not work well when seeking to comprehend God and His ways.

For example, is God like us or different than us?  A dualistic perspective would conclude that God is either like us or is unlike us.  As I think we all know, the answer is actually both.  God is both like us and very, very different than us.  In the same way, God is very close to us and infinitely far away.  God is both unknowable and knowable.

We see this tension in our text.  Is God omniscient (all-knowing)?  Yes.  But in this story, it would seem as if God doesn't know just how bad things are in Sodom and Gomorrah, and so concludes "I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know."   Is God like or unlike us?  In this interaction with Abraham, God seems to be quite like us, negotiating and open to having His mind changed.  Elsewhere God is presented as being unchangeable.  Is God one or the other... or both?

These types of what I call "creative tensions" are important to our faith.  In one sense, they depict God as being mind-blowing... which can be a good thing.  We cannot put God in a nice and tidy little box, understandable and explainable.  Also, non-dualist thinking opens us up to recognizing that we do not-- and cannot--  possess all truth.  We remain humble and prepared to listen and to learn.  That is also a good thing.

Right before His death and resurrection, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, who would lead us into all truth.  May we be prepared and open to the Spirit leading us into a deeper and deeper understanding and experiencing of God and of God's ways.

With You on the Journey,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church
Wellington, Colorado

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."