Fire and Brimstone

On the wicked, God will rain coals of fire and sulfur; a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the LORD is righteous. (Psalm 11:6-7, NRSV)

Is God still righteous if the wicked thrive?

Maybe you’ve noticed that there are children weeping in the streets because their parents have been taken from them–by immigration officials, by gun violence, by war.

Maybe you’ve noticed that there are people raging around the world because the systems that should support their lives have undermined them: governments spend money more readily on teargas than on education, corporations prioritize profit over community, religions love orthodoxy more than understanding.

Maybe you’ve noticed your own spirit, listless and wondering “How long?”: how long will hearts bleed, how long will discouragement weigh down souls, how long until hope is realized.

But still wars are waged and walls are built. Still wealth inequality skyrockets and gun sales surge.

Fire and brimstone aren’t raining down to engulf AK-47s.

Coals are not being stoked by the breath of God to incinerate white nationalism.

Is God still righteous?

One of the most essential classes of my seminary years focused on the problem of theodicy–the question of whether God can be good when evil still exists. Our class texts were the novels of Toni Morrison. The answers to theodicy that we found in Morrison’s novels, if they could be called answers, were complicated and sometimes discouraging. Perhaps God’s righteousness can’t be defended in the face of evil. Perhaps God’s goodness can only be found in part and in fleeting moments.

But finding answers wasn’t really the point. The point was to do the work of seeking them: to gaze honestly at trauma and evil, to look hard for hope, and to dig deep for love and life.

I don’t know if God is still good. I suspect God’s righteousness is tarnished, at the very least. But we’re called to keep searching for it–and searching for one another–through the fire and brimstone.

Sweet Jesus, the world is a mess. The wicked thrive, and violence multiplies. Find within us what we long to find within you: goodness, mercy, and love.

Written for the UCC Daily Devotional

Distant Promises

They died in faith without having received God’s promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. (Hebrews 11:13)

What do we ask of you, O God,
but faithfulness in presence and
mercy from devouring powers?

What do you ask of us, O God,
but integrity in discipleship and
compassion in community?

How have we failed one another, O Christ?

What do we ask of you, O God,
but timeliness in justice and
holy fury in redemption?

What do you ask of us, O God,
but patience in labor and
hope in restoration?

How have we tested one another’s limits, O Call?

What do we ask of you, O God,
but a rock to rest upon and
reward for sacrifice?

What do you ask of us, O God,
but trust in your steadfastness and
surrender of our treasures?

How have we counted one another’s costs, O Creator?

What do we ask of you, O God,
but inspiration for renewal and
courage for peace?

What do you ask of us, O God, but
but humility in worship and
dreams of what may be?

How have we failed one another, O Covenant?

What do we ask of you, O God,
but that you come?
And what do you ask of us
but that we be ready?

And will it be so?

Amen.

cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals

Psalm 107

O give thanks to the Holy One, whose reputation is goodness,
whose love is steadfast and forever.

From the depths of mourning,
in anger and in tears we pray:

O give thanks to the Holy One, whose reputation is goodness,
whose love is steadfast and forever.

From the wasteland of gun violence,
in distress and in repentance we pray:

O give thanks to the Holy One, whose reputation is goodness,
whose love is steadfast and forever.

From the deadly bowels of racism,
in defiance and for life we pray:

O give thanks to the Holy One, whose reputation is goodness,
whose love is steadfast and forever.

From the culture of accumulation,
in our jealous vigilance we pray:

O give thanks to the Holy One, whose reputation is goodness,
whose love is steadfast and forever.

From the middle of the storm,
in fear and in defeat we pray:

O give thanks to the Holy One, whose reputation is goodness,
whose love is steadfast and forever.

From the bedside of sickness and death,
in the company of love and loss we pray:

O give thanks to the Holy One, whose reputation is goodness,
whose love is steadfast and forever.

Who else would we praise but you, O God?
Whose name should be sung in worship or
carved onto our hearts for the sake of life?
Be Thou our judgment and our redemption
according to your goodness and your love,
and we will meditate on your faithfulness
from sunrise to sunrise with thanksgiving.

cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals

1 Corinthians 13 for Workaholics

For the overworked, the stressed-out, the stretched-too-thin, the full-time-with-a-side-hustle, the workaholic, the can’t-stop-or-the-ends-won’t-meet, and the all-I-value-about-myself-is-productivity, a prayerful reminder:

If I do all. the. things.
but have not love,
I am just a ball of stress,
an incarnate BlackBerry.

If I exceed expectations
but have not faith,
I am just an act,
a cynical Pinocchio.

If I win every battle
but have not hope,
I am just a trophy,
a gambler’s dream.

**On most weekdays, I post prayers like this one on Twitter. Follow me there, if you don’t already.