Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Beware of Hating Cheese

In real life I'm allergic to cheese; too much of the stuff, and I'm puffy, sneezing, and generally unhappy. Because the allergy isn't dramatic, and is more of an intolerance, the reality is that I simply choose my cheese carefully. For example, Donna and I spent our date day together this past Saturday at the Seattle Cheese Festival, which was a remarkable tapestry of tastes, as cheeses from all over the world were available for us to sample. As a result, when we dined together later, I chose a cheese free meal - only so much cheese in one day!

In allegorical and theological life, it seems that I'm also cheese 'intolerant'. And yet I'm concerned that intolerance not become so grave that I miss some truly edifying and uplifting stuff that is out there, having dismissed it just because it's 'cheesy'. One such item is the 'love letter from God'. The cheese detector goes off even before I begin to read. There's music playing in the background. I can't take it and so turn the sound off. But I read it. And I realize that this is, (with a few exceptions where promises from God are misappropriated) a collection of scriptures declaring the reality of how God loves us, cares for us, and longs to both know and delight in us. If this is cheese (and it is), it's cheese that we need. We need to know that we're unconditionally love and forgiven, because boatloads of guilt and shame are crippling people emotionally and physically, simply because they've never believed, or recieved the love of God their father.

My wife and I have had the experience of seeing people delivered from the effects of deep suffering, simply by their learning to believe that God loves them, and then learning what it means to actually receive that love and enjoy it on a daily basis. I know that this has proven to be a critical truth in my own life because of the early loss of my dad. There is a great deal of material on the "Father Heart of God" available for those willing to wrestle with this father/child relationship, and learn that God as Father is a very different thing than the guy who raised us, or failed to raise us, or hurt us, or abused or abandoned us. Such events make trusting God hard. But as I study today in preparation for teaching on Sunday, I'm struck by this profound declaration in Isaiah 64. "You are our Father" - that's only good news if I understand the character of Father/God - and that's what that cheesy website helps people do. Try reading this as a letter from God - I know you have doubts and questions and cynicism (otherwise why would read my blog consistently?). But you and I and the rest of the world needs to wrestle with this question: "Does God love the world?" - and for all the suffering, all the loss, all the injustice, I believe the starting point is found in learning to receive what God says about us. That's why it's worth reading something like this often!

You might think you're deathly allergic to cheese. But sometimes the most healing properties are found in the cheesiest cheese. Go ahead and take a bite.



At 16/5/06 14:39, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would you agree that any concept of God as a "father" is truly limited, since God is not a person, nor an animal? God is not the "perfect parent" as the Father Heart of God page indicates - but rather the perfect God... and as such a fitting analogy for ALL things made by, and therefore reflecting, their Creator. So, why do we (or the biblical writers for that matter) choose "father" as the prevalent analogy, rather than say, "mother", or "friend", or "tree" or "bird" or "bacteria"? Wouldn't have anything to do with a bible and church history being shaped by those who've wrested control of the world, a set of truly insecure men, would it?

At 16/5/06 14:49, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

my point precisely - It's true that God is not 'father' in the earthly sense of the word, or in some platonic ideal sense of the distorted earthly word - nor is he mother. But he does embody the characteristics of good parents needed by all children: uncondtional love, source of life, protection, and provision. Our failure to enter into the fullness of apprpopriating these qualities often stems from our own hair splitting theologically, with the result that we miss that which could be deeply transforming.


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