In the Hands of a Living God

August 18th, 2018

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:31

Karin and I had a friend, Joe Tripoli, who was wise and well-read. He also had a low tolerance for nonsense. He used to teach a religious education program for adults at our church. He would quote Hebrews 10:31 when a member of the class would get all warm and fuzzy about their relationship with the Lord. He tried to make the point that a true relationship with God can be comforting and reassuring, but it can also be scary as hell. Most people, Christians at least, want the sweet Good Shepherd who is most often found in the stain glass windows. They want the God who will give them hugs and smiles.

It doesn’t work like that.

There are very few examples in Jewish or Christian scriptures of God telling people what they want to hear. Generally, when God speaks to somebody, it is to say “Hey! I have a job for you!” or “You need to get your shit together!” Even when God or his angels announce the “Good News”, it comes in the form of a challenge. In the Beatitudes, Jesus talks about “Blessed are the poor in Spirit” and “Blessed are those who mourn”. Hmm…those words do not sound the Prosperity Gospel. There is no example (that I have found) in the Hebrew Bible where somebody willing accepts a task from the Almighty. All of the prophets initially ran for cover, or made lame excuses to get out of the job.

Any direct contact with the Divine seems to entail some kind of work, often of an unpleasant sort. Even in non-Abrahamic traditions, this is obvious. In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna converses with the god, Krishna, and finds out from that deity that his job is to fight and kill his relatives in battle. That’s not so good.

Prayer and meditation are often avenues for connecting with God, or something. Unfortunately, prayer and meditation do not guarantee a blissful experience. Thomas Merton makes this plain in his book, Seeds of Contemplation. Meditation is not the spiritual equivalent of lighting up a blunt. Sometimes there is a sense of peace and well-being. Sometimes there is nothing.

My relationship with God is tenuous at best. I get the most intense feeling of God when I read from the scriptures in front of the congregation during Mass. At times I cease to exist, and God speaks through me. I am not saying the words any more. Somebody else is in control. That does not happen very often, but it happens enough that it freaks me out. When I finish reading, I step down from the pulpit feeling exhausted. Sometimes I break down in tears. It can be frightening.

On Tuesday I went for coffee at the Fuel cafe with my friend, Ken. I know Ken from the synagogue. Years ago, Ken would make the priestly blessing on certain holy days. The process is called “duchining”. He told me that sometimes he would feel a power working through him. It had the same effect on him as the reading does on me. It freaked him out.

This following link explains the Jewish ritual. It is from Chabbad. It’s best for you to learn about it from people who actually know something.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.


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