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

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

Wilderness

We long for your voice
like a deer longs for water,
but no, Lord — do not put your voice
in our ears and our hearts, for it might
split us open and rend us from
the comforts and assumptions
with which we have clothed faith.

We long for your presence
like a ship longs for the shore,
but no, Spirit — do not be an anchor
to our wandering spirits, for you might
disrupt our restless living with the call
to faithfulness; we would
rather battle the storms.

We long for your help
like an eagle longs for the wind,
but no, Mercy — do not lift us up
with story and song, for we prefer reason
to imagination and your provocation
might shatter the certainty
by which we cling to you.

cross-posted with RevGalBlogPals

Clinging to Metaphors

We are underwater.
Let there be a Rock that is higher.

We are weary and worn.
Let there be a Peace beyond understanding.

We are frustrated, impatient.
Let there be a Seed in every season.

We are heartbroken.
Let there be a Fire to gather us together.

We are frantic, anxious, scattered.
Let there be a Plumb Line that remains steady.

For the sake of our salvation,
O Most Inscrutable God,
let there be metaphors.

Lament

Answer us, we dare pray,
O God of our groaning.

Reclaim what has been cast away,
O God of our weariness.

Seek out the pieces of our hearts,
lest they be scattered by the wind.

In your goodness, let there be a light
to keep us company as we cry.

In your mercy, let there be a hope
to draw water for our dry spirits.

In your love, let there be a word
to whisper us back into life.

Until the days of our delight
outweigh the days of our distress;

Until the season of evil
fades in the eternity of justice;

Until our tongues are loosed
from the dust of death.

Let there be a light,
let there be a hope,
let there be a word.

Amen.

cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals