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Riotous Reign

The Lord reigns! Let the earth rejoice! Clouds and thick darkness are all around the Holy One. Fire goes before the Lord, consuming adversaries on every side. God’s lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the Lord. – Psalm 97:1-5 excerpts (NRSV)

“God is sovereign,” writes the psalmist, and my spirit celebrates:

Go God! Show off that holy power!

“Tremble before God’s lightning,” the psalmist calls, and my spirit hesitates:

Um, God? I’ve been working on my spiritual strength, not my spiritual trembling.

“God is unlimited throughout creation, and God prevails above all.”

Hooray! Take that, other gods! God is the best!

And then the invitation: “Melt like wax before God’s throne. Behold God’s cover of fire and thick clouds.”

Oh dear. Riding the coattails of holy triumph is much more glorious than melting wax. Must the clouds be thick and ominous? Can we change that scenery to rainbows and unicorns, green pastures and still waters?

I know God’s ways are not my ways – God knows, I know it! – but it still throws me for a loop, every now and again, to be reminded that God is a storm as often as God is a silence. That God is an eruption as often as God is a stillness. That God is turmoil and wildness as often as God is rest and grace.

To the extent that I draw strength from God’s grace, I must also regularly draw humility from God’s ferocity.

As much as I cheer on God to triumph over evil, I must also tremble before God’s consuming fire.

And when I am tempted (maybe you’ve been tempted too) to want God’s fire to show up in the world in certain ways, with a certain decorum, with restrained politeness and a kind word to soften the blow, I remember again how much I really don’t understand the untamed, unrelenting, unencumbered character of God.

Prayer: Holy Riot, Unfettered Ruckus, be a storm to our lethargy. A disruption to our righteousness. A shout to our hesitation.

written for the Daily Devotional

In the Wee Small Hours

On that day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the Lord; and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon; and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.” And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. – Joshua 10:12-13 (NRSV)

The sun is limiting its face time with the northern hemisphere these days. Dawn rises each morning with slow luxury. Noon casts long shadows. Dusk reddens the autumn leaves in late afternoon.

I’m grateful for the lengthening nights in this time of glaring injustice, gaudy lies, and flashing threats of violence. I can’t imagine taking joy in a day without darkness, a day of blazing light, a day without the reprieve of time, a day when the moon waits in the wings so the sun can abet catastrophic horror.

But even without the sun standing still, daily upheaval has quite an overwhelming intensity. As does election news. As does pandemic news. As does pretty much everything else. My social media is filled with calls for the brilliant work of justice to be unrelenting. Righteous messages and unrighteous messages alike radiate the theme: We cannot stop! We must persevere! Let the sun stand still to fuel our work!

Meanwhile the moon is spending an increased amount of time whispering a different necessary truth: Here, for all, are the lengthening hours of the night, a gift for repentance and restoration. For quiet and calm. For dreaming and releasing.

We need the moonlit hours, as much if not more than the sunlit hours, for the work at hand. Or at least, I need them. Because what will be the value of virtuous victory under the sun if we kill ourselves (and others) in the process?

Here is the sun, willingly waning, so that our agitated spirits might do the same.

Prayer: Give us this day our rest.

written for the UCC Daily Devotional

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