Ego Issues

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place.’” – Luke 14:8-9 (NRSV)

The Apocryphal Sirach offers the same truth without dressing it up in a parable: “Pride was not created for human beings” (10:18).

Sirach crushes any hope of wiggle room that we might be tempted to insert into Jesus’ parable. “Jesus said I shouldn’t place myself with pride in a place of honor, so let me just scoot down to the end of the table, where someone might notice me and invite me to a better seat. Surely it’s not pride if I conveniently position myself so that other people make a fuss about me.”

But no, according to Sirach. Pride was not created for human beings.

Period.

Not even for those who cloak their pride in humility and bad seating.

For whom then—or for what—was pride created?

Perhaps for the sun, which knows its work in creation and performs it faithfully. Perhaps for the tall sycamore, which is unafraid to shed its own skin for the sake of growth. Perhaps for the red-tailed hawk, which soars and dives with unwavering confidence in air currents it cannot see.

Perhaps most of all for the Holy Ego that has committed itself to an eternity of love.

God have mercy. In my not-so-secret heart of hearts, I want a better seat, or at least a better cushion for my seat. Teach me peace, not only humility, and I will boost your pride with praises.

written for the Daily Devotional

Bent Over

* * *

Kyrie eleison,
the weight of pain has worn me down these long years
so much that I have lost my faith in sabbath rest
and the hope of healing no longer
visits my deepest dreams.

Christe eleison,
I have longed to lean back and feel the sun’s smile
on my face, my neck, my breast, my open palms
but there is only the ground to watch
as it passes beneath my feet.

Kyrie eleison,
for my soul still repeats its prayers and praises
but my body can no longer watch your coming
like a boat as it returns home from storm
or the sun as it rises over the hills.

* * *

Kyrie eleison,
this is the yoke of my days, the destiny of my flesh
to bear ridicule for which I am not at fault,
but oh! My God and my Savior —
can you not rebuild cities?

Christe eleison,
what is the mercy and love of God among us?
What is the appropriate prayer of just one
for relief, when generations
weep for restoration?

Kyrie eleison,
upon you I have leaned for my whole life
like the staff by which I move and live;
do not let my faithfulness to you
by shamed by doubt.

* * *

cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals

Beloved

Let me sing for the Beloved,
and let the Beloved sing for me:

songs of delight and satisfaction,
of discovery and renewal,
of harmony and hope.

Let me hum for the Beloved,
and let the Beloved hum for me:

lullabies of comfort and patience,
of possibility and peace,
of justice and love.

Let me chant for the Beloved,
and let the Beloved chant for me:

rhythms of change and declaration,
of perseverance and promise,
of fire and devotion.

Let me sing for the Beloved,
and let the Beloved sing for me:

ballads of faithfulness and wonder,
of the turn of sunshine and rain,
of joy that does not sunset.

Come, O Beloved, and sing with me.

cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals

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