fbpx

A Glutton & a Drunkard

Read Luke 7:31-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. ‘He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,’ they grumbled” (Luke 19:6-7, NLT).

Recently I was invited by a colleague and friend, the right Reverend Salvatore Seirmarco of The Party on JohnCast fame, to join him at a Pride Flag hanging ceremony being held at a local town municipal building. First, I was strangely warmed to see the whole community coming out to support their LGTBQia+ brothers, sisters, parents, friends, and neighbors. Seriously, everyone from the mayor and county officials, to the police, to the first responders, high school students, to even the chairs of both the County Republican and Democratic Committees were their to celebrate. It was a unified community…unified around love and inclusivity.

Sal and I were there representing the clergy and very much honored to do so. As soon as we arrived in our clerical collars and pride stoles, a couple walked up to us and asked us: “Where’s your church”. Sal, who is a hospice chaplain, explained his ministry and also where he personally attends church. I also told her about the church I pastor, following which one of the women asked me, “Is your church welcoming to people like us.” Or something along those lines.

This saddened me because, I knew why she was asking. These two women were same-sex spouses who had recently moved to the area from New York City and were looking for a church to call their home. I know how awkward finding a church can be as I have been there myself; however, their asking me that question hit me differently that time. I had no clue how “awkward” it would be for them to enter a church…any church…without knowing about the church first. In fact, “awkward” is the wrong word. It would be terrifying.

Why is that? Simple. The church has been hostile to the LGBTQia+ community. First, the Biblical text explicitly calls homosexuality a detestable sin (see Leviticus 18:22) and, in churches with a more “fundamentalist” approach to understanding the Bible, this alone can cause Christians to become judgmental, try to “convert”, and even get hostile toward people of the LGBTQia+ community.

Second, within churches they may have people staring at them as they hold hands together, or they may have comments said around them that are insensitive and hurtful. Even within the United Methodist Church, in which I serve, clergy are barred from performing same-sex weddings and bishops are barred from ordaining “self-avowed practicing homosexuals”. People within our denomination are fighting to have that and other language removed, but it is clear that the church is often not a safe place or “sanctuary” for people of the LGBTQia+ community.

So, why am I writing about this. First, it is PRIDE month and, as an affirming ally of the LGBTQia+ community, it is important to raise awareness and be an upstander (as opposed to a bystander), or one who stands up for all of my LGBTQia+ sisters and brothers. Second, I also recognize that some Christians who read this might become confused and/or feel threatened (I can never understand this) and/or react in negative ways. Some may say that I am a “false teacher” (not the first time nor the last I am sure), or that I am heading to hell, or that I am not teaching the Bible.

Some people could unsubscribe to this devotion or leave my church over the idea that I would write in support of the LGBTQia+ community. I don’t think that is the case at my church, but one never knows. Truthfully, that’s the main reason why many clergy, who would otherwise be allies of the LGBTQia+ community, stay silent. Many clergy fear the repercussions to them and to their church if they speak up and out. The truth be told, that’s not only true of clergy…but many Christians in general.

Yet, as Christians, we ought to know better. Why? Because we ought to be modeling ourselves off of the chief “sinner” himself: Jesus. If you are scratching your head wondering what the heck I am talking about, then you need to read Today’s Scripture. In it you will see that Jesus points out that the “religious” leaders of his day had judged John the Baptist as being demon-possessed, and now they are also judging and labeling Jesus as both a glutton and a drunkard.

Why? Because Jesus was hanging around “notorious sinners” such as Zacchaeus and prosititutes and those who ate and drank at parties. Of course, Jesus wasn’t prostituting himself out or engaging in carnal activities with prostitutes. He wasn’t getting plastered on a daily basis, nor was plagued with the never-ending munchies either. The problem was that he was consorting, or regularly keeping company, with such people and, therefore, he was seen as guilty by association with the “sinners”.

What some of the first-century Jewish religious leaders, and some Christians, failed to realize is that WE ARE ALL SINNERS. Whether Jesus hung out with drunks, prostitutes and greedy tax collectors, or whether he hung out with the Scribes, Pharisees, and political leaders, he was still consorting with sinners. Jesus, himself, is the ONLY one who is FREE from sin. Everyone else, including us, are not. So, whether we think someone is sinning or not, which one of us is in a position to judge? NONE OF US!

That is why I have no problem consorting with people that others might get upset about. That is why you will see me in a bar or in the local Specialty Cannabis (CBD) store. You’ll see me at rock concerts, Harry Potter festivals, and all sorts of cool, worldly events. Why? Because that is where Jesus is…that is where I need to be to. The church equips me, fills me and sends me out to the community in Jesus’ name and it does the same for you too!

Jesus doesn’t just send you to the people society thinks are doing everything right; rather, Jesus sends you to ALL people and he has tasked you with including and loving them. Knowing that then, don’t worry about your “reputation”, or what people with think of you because of your associations; instead, just worry about the people Christ is calling you to know and love. Then you will be doing great work for the Kingdom of Heaven and God’s glory!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Judgmental people in a church are as helpful as backseat drivers in a car.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to avoid judgment and, when I can, be inclusive of all people. Amen.

Episode 49 | One Nation Under Guns (ReUploaded)

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-e7ct4-124e758

NOTE: It was brought to our attention that the podcast was only 39 seconds long. We are not sure how that happened, but have uploaded the full-lengthed episode. Special shout out to our longtime POJCaster and former guest, Ryan Stockton for letting us know. And now, without further adieu…the episode notes:
In this episode, fellow POJCasters, Sal, Todd and Blake discuss the shithouse theology behind the ongoing epidemic of gun violence and how sadly, for some “Christians” and others in our nation, guns surpass God as the ultimate deity to worship. Don’t miss this important episode Are you interested in being on the Party on JohnCast? Email us at partyonjohncast@gmail.com.
Party On Patrons: You can totally support us by subscribing to us on Patreon and, by doing so, you will be signing up for exclusive, bonus content, such as episode wrap-ups, extra segments and the like. We have three tiers of support and each level bears more rewards. Lots of great reasons to join. Click here for more information.
Other ways to Support: If you love this podcast, please rate and review us on iTunes, Google Play Music, Spotify. The more we get rated and reviewed, the higher up on the giganto totem pole we get on those respective platforms.
Also, interact with us on our social media, on our Facebook Page, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also reach out to us via email partyonjohncast@gmail.com, though, please keep in mind we are more active on our social media accounts and do not check our email as often. On Twitter you can also follow Todd and Sal on Twitter at @trlattig and @SalvatoreSeirm1 respectively.
EPISODE NOTES:
He Brews Segment:
Sal
Blake
Todd
Most Excellent Music Segment:
Todd
Sal
Blake

REVISTED: Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing

Read Matthew 7:15-29

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1-2, New Living Translation)

WhoIsThat-For anyone who has known me for a while, it wouldn’t be breaking any headlines if I confessed that I am a heavy metal fan. Really I am a music lover altogether, but heavy metal is definitely one genre I can’t get enough of.  One of my favorite modern metal bands is called “Demon Hunter” and they also happen to be Christian. Yes, you heard me right. There is a Christian heavy metal band named Demon Hunter.

Ryan Clark, who is the frontman of Demon Hunter, was once interviewed about a song he wrote called, “Follow the Wolves.” The interviewer was asking how that song came about as it seems so contradicting to Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:15. For instance, the song states, “Dismantle the ground they stand on, give power a name. You’ve traveled the path of slander, now bury the shame. Shed rejection; learn to follow the wolves.”

Ryan proceeded to tell a story about a person who was facing rejection within the church for the type of music he was listening to (namely Demon Hunter) and how he had corresponded with this person and found inspiration in the story.  He was reflecting on the judgment going on in that church and many other churches like it.  Ryan was reflecting on how we often judge based off of appearance without really looking deeper than what we see on the surface.

While Demon Hunter may sound like a disgruntled legion of demons screaming out in the darkness to many Christians who are not familiar with metal and take no liking of that genre, that does not mean they are, in fact, demonic and “antichrist”.  In fact, it is Demon Hunter’s ferocious sound and image that attracts so many to come and listen to what they have to say.  And behind the façade of a rough and tough metal band there is a message of hope, healing and wholeness—one that resonates with many people who are experiencing hopelessness in their lives.

Ryan concluded his interview with the following reflection, which I will paraphrase. He told the interviewer that Demon Hunter were actually sheep in wolves clothing. They looked like wolves with their piercings and tattoos. They sound like wolves with their shredded guitars and guttural growls. Yet, if you look past the surface you will see that, in fact, Demon Hunter are sheep, leading people to the Good Shepherd.

Who are we to judge? It is very common for Christians to throw the “wolves” accusation around at Christians who don’t seem to be matching up to our vision of Christianity; however, it is not our vision of Christianity we should be following. In fact, we should not be following Christianity at all; we should be following Christ!  While Christ did warn us to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing, he also told us we would know who’s who by the fruit they bore. Which bears better fruit: the tree of judgment or the tree of hope, healing and wholeness? Anyone leading people to the latter is certainly doing God’s work.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

The value of a person lies far beyond the scope of our human sensibilities.

PRAYER

Lord, open our hearts and minds to those who look, live and lead differently and help us to celebrate the work they are doing for your Kingdom. Teach us to be a people of discernment, but not of judgment. Amen.

Episode 250 | Celebrate, part 1: Celebrate Diversity

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-2yjmt-125342b

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses that as the body of Christ, we are called to celebrate the diverse ways God is reflected in each and every person.

June 19, 2022 – Newton UMC – Sunday Worship Livestream

JOY Fellowship Worship Service in Holland Hall: 9:00 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 9:00 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Worship Service in Main Sancutary: 10:30 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Welcome to our JOY Fellowship Worship Service for June 19. Today we learn that as the body of Christ, we are called to celebrate the diverse ways God is reflected in each and every person.

Please support us by giving online: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc Your support is vital, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. You can also write and mail a check to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ 07860.

If you are from another church that is not able to host online worship, we would strongly encourage you give to YOUR church and support them. They no doubt need that support as much as we do. God bless you all for your generosity.

REVISITED: Wrath of God, part 6

Read Ephesians 2:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13 NRSV)

4456579

If you have been reading this series of devotions on the wrath of God, we have certainly been dealing with a subject that most people avoid like the pestilences found in Egypt and Revelation. With good intentions perhaps, many clergy steer clear of talking about the wrath of God so as to not “scare people off” and/or because they themselves are uncomfortable with the topic. The very clergy who organized the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) have often focused on the “happy” and/or “positive” images of God, only to skip over many of the wrathful images.

Of course, there are some clergy and some Christians who ONLY focus on the wrath of God. These Christians often sit on their perches like hawks, looking down on whom they can throw the Bible at and whom they can warn of hellfire and damnation. Unfortunately, these Christians (and not the Scriptures) are largely responsible for scaring people off and for the bad image that God has received throughout the years. Equally as unfortunate, the silence of responsible theologians on the subject of God’s wrath have also served to be a detriment to the image of God because in the silence the unsilent extreme have been given an unfettered platform to define God through their theology.

It is because of the outspokenness of the Christian extreme and the silence of the more responsible Christian majority that anti-theists, and a growing number of people in our world, have come to reject God and some have even deemed religion to be an evil that the world needs to be rid of! For example, prominent anti-theist Richard Dawkins has written, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” He also has written, “Religion is capable of driving people to such dangerous folly that faith seems to me to qualify as a kind of mental illness.”

Of course, while I respect Dr. Dawkins’ opinion, one could say that his simpleton, straw-man, and heavily skewed understanding of religion can and has led to dangerous folly as well (e.g. any communist nation, take your pick). So, in light of all the terrible things happening in this world, some of them indeed happening in the name of God and/or Allah, I have found it necessary to talk about God’s wrath and I feel is it fruitful for all people to wrestle with what “the wrath of God” really is.

For me, it can be summed up in this manner. The God we worship is the God who created all that is out of love and a desire to be in relationship with that creation. As such, it pains God to see creation suffer and it angers God to see creatures do harm to other creatures. God’s anger can be felt burning in the souls of humans as they witness suffering as a result of sin and evil. That anger is heard in the voices of those who protest against the injustices in the world. I would even say, dare I say it, that God’s anger can be heard through Richard Dawkins whose opinion has formed out of a disgust with religiously motivated ignorance and evil.

God’s wrath, on the other hand, is not something that GOD is bringing upon people! I want to make that clear. Yes, the Bible has articulated it that way, for sure! Yes, people tend to understand it that way; however, that understanding is also countered in the same Bible by the reality that the wrath that was experienced was brought about by the wickedness of humans. God does not punish, nor does God need to. Humans, far too often, punish themselves. Their wickedness brings destruction upon themselves and, unfortunately, upon the innocent as well.

Our God, on the other hand, is grace, mercy, compassion, justice, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration. Our God, through prophets, humanitarians, and good Samaritans alike, is actively working to bring about hope, healing and wholeness in the world. God’s wrath is spoken through the voices of prophets, but the consequences are the result of human wickedness and NOT God.

The good news in all of this is that we serve a God who is EMPATHETIC to our suffering, a God who stands in solidarity with those suffering, rather than an aloof God who simply does not care God who simply doesn not exist. Like Elijah, like Isaiah, like Jeremiah, let us call upon our God in times of distress that we may be given strength to voice God’s anger and wrath, as well as God’s grace, forgiveness and reconciliation, to those who have strayed into wickedness.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The hallmark of intelligence is not whether one believes in God or not, but the quality of the processes that underlie one’s beliefs.” – Alister McGrath

PRAYER
Lord, help me to have the strength to speak against injustice, rather than remain silent. Amen.

REVISITED: Wrath of God, part 5

Read Jeremiah 31:1-10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for My own sake and will never think of them again.” (Isaiah 43:25, NLT)

jer4-weeping-prophet

Jeremiah stood there in the midst of the city. Everything had been destroyed and burned to the ground. The houses were smoldering furnaces with smoke billowing to the heavens. Corpses were lying everywhere and the stench of decay filled the air. Jerusalem had her share of sorrows in the past, but they all paled in comparison with the Babylonian seige.

The Temple was in ruins and not one stone remained on top of the other. The holy place of God was a ransacked pile of rubble, laid to waste by the gentile Babylonians. The survivors were left without their Temple, without their homes, without the property, and without anyone of their spiritual leaders. King Zedekiah, his cabinet of advisors, his family, his priests and all of the leaders and their families were all exiled from Jerusalem and taken back to Babylon as spoils of the war. The future of Judah, the future of Jerusalem, were uncertain.

Jeremiah stood there that day, having been released from the prison by order of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II. He was imprisoned by King Zedekiah for speaking out against the corruption of the King and the king’s government. Nebuchadnezzar had him released because word reached him that there was a prophet who prophesied in Babylon’s favor. Jeremiah stood there, horrified at the site of the utter and complete destruction, and he wept.

“If only they had listened,” he thought to himself. “If only they had turned from their wickedness, from their corruption, from their greed, they would have avoided all of this. How many innocent lives had been destroyed by the evil perpetrated by those who refused to live justly, who refused to love mercy, and who refused to walk humbly with their God?

But as sad Jeremiah was that day, he was not without hope for he knew that God was not the God of eternal judgment but the God of endless and ever abounding grace! God would not abandon the people of Judah, but would be working to bring them home and to restore them back to the people they were created to be. God would be showing them forgiveness and working toward reconciliation. This was not so just in spirit and in truth, but through the leadership of those who were still open to God’s wisdom and guidance; through the leadership of people like Jeremiah and those who followed him.

What is important for us to gather from Jeremiah and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians is that GOD is not the GOD OF WRATH, but the GOD OF GRACE. When looking at the wrath of God, ask yourself this question: Is God reigning wrath down on the people? Even if it is being articulated that way by the Biblical authors, is that really what is going on? Or is the wrath of God, properly speaking, the natural consequences to the evil that people perpetuate? People may get away with being wicked for so long, but eventually (as the phrase suggests), “every dog has its day.”

What’s even more important to glean from this narrative, is that while we do often bring the wrath of our actions down upon our heads, God never gives up hope on us. God is always forgiving us, always working to restore us back to a place of righteousness, and always working to reconcile us with God and with our neighbor. In wrath, in the natural consequences of our sinful and evil actions, there is still GREAT HOPE. Today’s challenge is to see the hope in the consequences we, and the world, are facing today and to begin to be God’s mouthpiece for the proclamation of the Good News of God’s reconciliation and restoration!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The work of community, love, reconciliation, restoration is the work we cannot leave up to politicians. This is the work we are all called to do.” – Shane Claiborne

PRAYER
Lord, help me to not only seek justice, but to seek reconciliation for myself and for others. Amen.

June 5, 2022 – Newton UMC – Sunday Worship Livestream

JOY Fellowship Worship Service in Holland Hall: 9:00 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 9:00 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Worship Service in Main Sancutary: 10:30 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Welcome to our JOY Fellowship Worship Service for June 12. Today we discover the heart of Christian Worship.

Please support us by giving online: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc Your support is vital, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. You can also write and mail a check to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ 07860.

If you are from another church that is not able to host online worship, we would strongly encourage you give to YOUR church and support them. They no doubt need that support as much as we do. God bless you all for your generosity.

REVISITED: Wrath of God, part 4

Read Genesis 19:1-16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Do to [Babylon] as she has done to others. Double her penalty for all her evil deeds. She brewed a cup of terror for others, so brew twice as much for her.” (Revelation 18:6)

fall-of-babylon-640x426

It was on Thursday, Sepetember 13, 2001 that the late Rev. Jerry Falwell carried a conversation with televangelist Pat Robertson regarding the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history just two days earlier on 9/11. He said, “The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularise America, I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.'”

Wow! Go ahead, read that quote again. Let it sink in. Did God really send terrorists, or “allow terrorists to succeed” in killing nearly 3,000 people (most of whom were not abortionists or ACLU members, many of whom were not gay or lesbian, and most of whom were not pagans) because such people are fighting for the secularization of the country? Does God really operate in such a morally questionable way? This is the type of stuff that make the Bible and, in particular, the wrath of God so hard to navigate while trying to be a responsible theologian.

I am not quoting the late Rev. Falwell to judge him; but to continue to address the wrath of God and how that operates in the Biblical narrative. First, I would like to state that God’s wrath is almost always poured out upon nations (with some exceptions). Rev. Falwell’s line of thinking that God could be pouring judgment and wrath upon America is certainly not unfounded in a literal interpretation of Scripture. In Exodus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah, and many others we see God actively calling nations out for their wickedness and we see God’s wrath poured out on them for their wickedness. In Revelation, we see God’s wrath being poured out on the beast, which represents the Roman Empire.

But the question is, what angers God so much that God’s wrath boils up and over? Time and time again, when we look in the Bible, we see that what God despises the most, what sets God off in anger and wrath, is injustice! When the privileged abuse their power for their own gain, when those in power lord it over those who are powerless, God gets angry. When people are oppressed, enslaved, mistreated, disregarded, impoverished, forgotten, manipulated and/or exploited, God is incensed.

Even in the instance of Sodom and Gomorrah, the wrath was the result of all of the men of the city trying to rape the very messengers God sent to warn the cities. While rape involves a sexual act, it is more of an abusive act of power than it is one of sex. And God destests such injustice. God’s wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah was not over consensual homosexuality, as it is often misinterpreted, but rather about the kind of moral depravity that the entire city was consumed by…to the point that its citizens would rape and have their way with strangers and aliens, just because they could!

Let us not fall into the moral tar pit of judgment toward people who are different than us in sexual identity, in gender, in political affiliation, in ideology, or in any such thing. That is the pathway of sin and, ultimately, can lead to evil (e.g. Orlando Massacre). When reflecting on God’s wrath, we must understand the heart of God. The Bible makes it clear to us, over and over again, that God detests injustice in all forms, and God’s heart is with the downtrodden and the oppressed and that God’s wrath comes against the SYSTEMS that work their hardest at keeping the oppressed “in their place.”

The question for us is this, does God’s anger burn through us at the injustice we see toward all who are oppressed and/or discriminated against? Or do we align with the SYSTEM in its discrimination? Do we fight for all to be treated equal in the system and under the law, or do we want to keep the under-privileged in their places so that we can hold on to our privilege and power? Reflect upon this and allow the conviction of God to stir up honest answers to those questions, for honest answers lead to heavenly transformation.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“If everyone howled at every injustice, every act of barbarism, every act of unkindness, then we would be taking the first step towards a real humanity.” – Nelson DeMille

PRAYER
Lord, help me to see the injustice that I perpetuate so that I may eliminate it and fight against it in the world around me. Amen.

REVISITED: Wrath of God, part 3

Read Jeremiah 6:1-19

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let Me. And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate.” (Matthew 23:37-38 NLT)

Destruction_of_Jerusalem

Jeremiah looked at his beloved Judah, and his beloved Jerusalem, and all he could feel was his anger, his rage toward what it had become. Coming from the tribe of Benjamin, Jeremiah was born in a priestly family and was called by God to be a prophet. Though reluctant at first, Jeremiah soon found that he could not turn away God’s call, for it burned like a wildfire within him.

Jeremiah was called to be a prophet around a year after King Josiah reformed Jerusalem and banned any form of idol worship. The king had tried to bring Judah back to a true and pure worship of God and he established the Temple of Jerusalem as the ONLY temple that God could be worshipped in. Following his death in a battle at Megiddo against Egypt, Judah quickly returned to its wicked ways.

The people of Judah and Jerusalem fell back into idol worship as a result of weak and corrupt leadership. The leaders themselves were corrupt politicians, greedy, murderous, and totally lacking the moral and ethical compasses needed for true leadership. The desparity between the ruling class and the poor grew wider and wider and the shepherds (aka the leaders) of God’s people were more or less wolves in disguise. They weren’t caring for or protecting the people, they were milking and raping them of all they had. What’s worse, the priests and religious leaders were corrupt as well, and supported these elitist, tyrannical rulers with the authority of their religious office. By doing this, the priests were explicitly giving the rulers “God’s blessing” to continue in their corruption.

This incensed Jeremiah. He was furiously beside himself and could not contain the fire that was raging inside. “I’m filled with the Lord’s rage,” Jeremiah shouted, “and am tired of holding it in” (Jeremiah 6:11). In the suggested reading, one sees Jeremiah go through an entire rant about how angry God is and that God would not sit idly by and do nothing in regard to the wickedness of Judah. God was going to bring wrath upon their heads. Their cities would be leveled. Their people would be exiled. Smoke would be seen from miles to remind everyone of what happens when you stray and embrace wickedness. Jeremiah’s rant is harsh, and much of it is spoken as being the very words of God.

Outside of the context, it is very easy for us to read that and take the words literally. In fact, some Christians do believe that God is an angry God who punishes the wicked for their wrong doings. They even wrongfully use such words in judgment against groups of people they disagree with, labeling them as “wicked” and blaming catastrophic events on their wickedness.What’s more, anti-theists will often point to such verses as a reason that religion needs to go. And it is no wonder why, what kind of perfect God throws such temper-tantrums and wipes out entire peoples.

Yet, let us not lose sight that this is Jeremiah speaking. He may be doing so on behalf of God, but he is not God. Let us also not lose sight that Jeremiah is extremely angry, and rightfully so, at the corruption and injustice of Judah’s leaders. It’s not all that different from the anger many are feeling today at the corruption of our American leaders and the injustice that is spreading throughout our land. Jeremiah is, quite frankly, ticked off at this and, rightfully, is pointing out that God is really, really angry too. In fact, God’s anger is what is fueling his anger!

With that said, Jeremiah also provides us words that permit us to interpret this text more responsibly. He words it that way but also proclaims, “Listen, all the earth! I will bring disaster on My people. It is the fruit of their own schemes, because they refuse to listen to Me. They have rejected My word” (Jeremiah 6:19 NLT). In other words, God’s wrath is ultimately the natural and often unintended consequences of evil and wickedness having their effect upon a people who have brought such consequences upon themselves.

As we will see later on, God does not just display wrath but also mercy, forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation. Yet, I do not want to put the cart before the horse. Today’s challenge, then, is for us to reflect on God’s wrath. Reflect on the wickedness in our own hearts, the wickedness in the world, and the evil that is carried out on a daily basis. Reflect on the natural consequences of such wickedness and evil. Read the suggested reading, feel God’s and Jeremiah’s pain, and reflect upon it. Allow it to pierce your heart and move you to change as well as turn you into an agent, a prophet, of change.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“This is the very worst wickedness, that we refuse to acknowledge the passionate evil that is in us. This makes us secret and rotten.” – D. H. Lawrence

PRAYER
Lord, help me to move away from wickedness and injustice and to speak out against it as well. Amen.

A biweekly devotional