I have several Diocesan Church Newspapers from the 1970s given to me by Art Shields. I picked one of them up today and read these words inside…
“There is a persistent tendency to regard Christianity as a system of noble teaching, of high precepts and beautiful ideals and splendid moral principles. Well, it is all that, but it is much more than that, and primarily it is not that at all. It is not a set of rules, not a code of laws, not a scheme of ethics, but a gloriously happy piece of news – an announcement to quicken the pulse and thrill the soul…What is the nature of the good news? It is good news about God…Christ came to tell us that the Almighty is not a distant, awful Jehovah, jealous of His prerogatives, and swift to anger and wrath, but a loving, approachable Father, willing and eager to welcome to His heart all human children. What good news is this! It means that the fundamental fact of the universe is the friendliness of God.”
These words were written by a learned priest of the church in 1974. The priest is the Rev’d Canon Geoffrey Dibbs our Honorary Assistant who, at the time of writing the above, was Editor of the Huron Church News. (Geoff and Margaret will be with us on Sunday at St. Mark’s.) It comes as no surprise to those of us who know Geoff that he would write such great theology.
God is not distant, jealous, and swift to anger. God is LOVING and APPROACHABLE. God is EAGER to WELCOME ‘all human children.’ My favourite line is “THE FUNDAMENTAL FACT OF THE UNIVERSE IS THE FRIENDLINESS OF GOD.” Listening to some of the chatter between factions within the church we must assume that many have not yet heard the good news about ‘the friendliness of God.’ The image that seems to be often painted of God is one of anger and vengeance. So you ask, “Where do people get that image of God?” The answer is from within the church – It is taught to all of us from a young age.
Many of us were given images of God in our Sunday School days that were downright intimidating and at their worst scary. As we had no Sunday School at the Church of St. George the Martyr, I attended Sunday School on Sunday afternoon at St. Andrew’s United Church. Alice was the kindest of women and was a great Sunday School teacher. A devout Christian, Alice was a great influence in many of lives and continues to be a great witness today. Even Alice’s kindness could not soften the details of a God who decided to destroy the earth by flood, have a father kill his own son, drown the Egyptians…well you get the picture. If hearing this in Church and Sunday School were not enough reinforcement, I had a Children’s Bible that also chronicled all of those great stories – it was complete with illustrations. It seems that the loving, forgiving, gentle, and friendly God that Geoff wrote about was an afterthought. Little wonder then that so many embrace the narrower notion of God.
The good news of LOVE is shown in the lives of God’s saints. I am a Christian because I have been influenced by loving Christians. I learned about the frindliness of God from the lives of people like Alice. I learned from parents and siblings, from grandparents and from elders in my community. I saw the goodness of God and friendliness of God in people. This has continued to be the case for me in my adult life. I am so pleased that I belong to a community which has embraced the GOOD NEWS. God is LOVE! God is FRIENDLY. God is FORGIVING. God is APPROACHABLE. One of the great gifts of being a Christian has to be the knowledge that we have a FRIEND is sticks with us through all things. We ought to be so please at the ‘friendliness of God’ that we invite others to share in it. Knowing what a great Friend that God is, we should offer others the friendship of Jesus. When I think of how I have been loved, healed, forgiven, restored, embraced, challenged, renewed, changed, by God and by God’s people, my pulse quickens and my soul is thrilled. God is GOOD NEWS. So let us let people know that “THE FUNDAMENTAL FACT OF THE UNIVERSE IS THE FRIENDLINESS OF GOD.”