Being cheeky with God

There are some very cheeky people in our congregation. They amuse us by the way in which they use impolite speech.

For example, I can imagine one of our members, one who treats others with great respect, watching a movie about John Wesley, then messaging me and saying I “f#ck*ng love how holy Johnny was.”

The lectionary readings for Sunday 1 May 2022 included Psalm 30. There’s a really cheeky verse in Psalm 30. It’s verse 9:

What profit is there in my death,
    if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
    Will it tell of your faithfulness?

The psalmist addressed those words to God. Think about it.

It’s been sung and read billions of times since it was written. It’s been sung in processions, in the Jerusalem Temple, in churches around the world, in private and in public, by individuals, choirs, congregations.

It says to God “You should save me. Cos if you don’t, I’ll die. And if I die, there’ll be one less voice to praise you.” Get it?

In the past couple of years, when the world has been on edge because of the COVID-19 virus, have you heard anyone pray to God in that manner? Did you? Will you?

What kind of person prays like that?

Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann makes this observation about the author of that verse: “Sliding into the persiflage [light and slightly contemptuous mockery or banter] of comradeship, [the psalmist] unconsciously demonstrated the authenticity of his faith.”

Long years ago, as a young Christian, I read a book by a man called Thomas Watson (1620-1686), an English pastor, preacher and writer. The book was titled A Body of Divinity. It was a collection of his sermons on the Westminster Catechism, a compendium of Christian beliefs.

The book included a short biographical essay about him. That essay included some memories of Watson by those who had heard him deliver the sermons. If my memory serves me right, one of those memories is that when Watson prayed to God before or after he delivered his sermon, his voice was the same as the voice he used in speech with others.

He did not take on a preacher’s voice or a prayer’s voice. He spoke in a conversational voice with God, because he was comfortable with God, whom he regarded as his father.

I know my father appreciated my cheekiness – although I think I was the only one among my siblings who was regularly cheeky with him.

Perhaps a holy person is one who is sometimes cheeky with Our Father, the creator and sustainer of heaven and earth? What do you think?

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