My third-grade Sunday school teacher was a dedicated but scary woman named Miss Hack. She spent most of her time putting the fear of God—instead of the love of God—into her students. For most of my childhood and adolescence, I suspected that God was carefully watching me, just waiting for me to do something wrong so that I would deserve punishment.

Poor Miss Hack had tried to instill respect and awe in her pupils, but too often it resulted in fear and dread. God was not a comfort to me for many years, but a warden. I tiptoed through life imagining a “Beware of God” sign hanging by whatever gate I passed.

After my first real girlfriend was killed in a car accident, I tortured myself for months wondering if her death was my punishment, the anger of God paying me back for all the ways I had sinned. I look back on those days with definite relief—relief that I escaped from a punitive theology that portrayed God as an angry thunderer who was eager to cast disobedient children into the fiery oven of eternal torment and damnation. Through the glorious transformation of the Holy Spirit, I came to know the God whose very name and nature is love. No longer did I live in mortal dread of condemnation and punishment. I was lifted into the reality of God’s cleansing grace. Faith displaced my fear. Hope eradicated my dread. Love filled my heart and changed my entire life. I came fully into the loving, comforting, caring, and healing arms of God.

I have made—and will continue to make—many mistakes, and I will sometimes do harm. But I am a child of forgiveness not condemnation; I am a member of the incarnate body of Christ. I am not defined by my failings but by the God whose name is love.

God of loving grace, thank you for new life and the light that fills our lives. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Luke 21:5-19

2 Comments
Log In to leave a comment
Lectionary Week
November 7–13, 2022
Scripture Overview

This week we read two passages from the prophet Isaiah. In the first, God promises a total restoration, a new heaven and a new earth— a theme repeated in Revelation 21. The new Jerusalem will be filled with joy and prosperity. Isaiah 12 offers thanksgiving to God for the gift of salvation. The praise of God will be proclaimed among many nations. In the epistle, Paul chastises a lazy faction among the Thessalonians. This passage has been misapplied as teaching against providing assistance to the poor, but Paul’s target is not the poor; it is those who can provide for themselves but fail to do so because they say they are too focused on waiting for Jesus. In Luke, Jesus foretells future turmoil for Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Isaiah 65:17-25. How can you play a part in Isaiah’s vision for God’s people? When do you have to accept that only God can usher in this vision? How do you know the difference between these two situations?
Read Isaiah 12. How can your words be life-changing for others?
Read 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13. Who has mentored you in the faith? How has their guidance helped you grow?
Read Luke 21:5-19. How do you speak the truth of Jesus to those who say the end is near?

Respond by posting a prayer.