Our Extravagant Father
One of the greatest science fiction novels ever, Dune, finally made into a decent movie last year, takes us to a planet that is entirely desert. Sand dunes encircle the globe like an ocean punctuated by islands of scorched rock, the only refuge against the immense sandworms that swim the dunes like leviathan. In such a world, the culture, religion worldview, behavior, discipline of the native people—every detail of daily life, every ritual and concern—revolves around the scarcity of water, their lifesource.
As both principle and metaphor, the world of Dune describes us humans on any world at any time. Whatever we experience or perceive as scarce becomes the center of our concern. We wrap our time, attention, effort, religion, culture, hopes, and dreams around it. Whether gold or oil, fame or power, youth, health, wealth, it becomes an object of worship and center of attention.
But back on Dune, an outworlder tells a group of natives that where she was born, water fell from the sky, ran in wide rivers, vast oceans… There is an audible gasp from the people, sighs, awe at such possibility.
We also live a desert mentality of scarcity, competition, rationing, thirst, fear. Our experience and culture have installed this worldview, and our churches have reinforced it, applied it to God. We imagine God’s love and acceptance as scarce—withheld and elusive—and we obsess over performing to acquire them, aim religion and ritual at convincing God to bestow them.
What if we stepped off a starship, onto a planet where God’s love fell from the sky?
Jesus is trying to show us that we don’t need a starship. Such a planet is already ours, and scarce is not a word in Jesus’ vocabulary. His God is insanely extravagant, abundant beyond belief with trillions of stars in trillions of galaxies, tethering trillions of planets with trillions of life forms in his back pocket. All of them good in God’s eyes, swimming in a love that falls from the sky.
Squinting through the downpour, Jesus wonders when we will become willing to drop the nets of our performance and sell the possession of any worldview that imagines otherwise.