In yesterday’s sermon, I talked about what I believe hell is. In part I said that hell is failing to offer water to the thirsty, which causes the dehydration of our own soul. Isolating ourselves from one another is a uniquely American hell in which we have this perverse value for rugged individualism.
We think we help those in need without recognizing that this is how we save our souls from hell. That is what Jesus meant about rivers of living water flowing from those who really believe.
Those who follow the way of Jesus live in such a way that living water, life-giving water flows from them, not into them like stagnated reservoirs. It flows through them into the world, quenching the thirst of a dry and arid land and wetting our own thirst along the way.
The psalmist cried out like a deer thirsting for water, like one parched and dying of thirst, one apart from God without hope. Who would invite her to drink when all are too absorbed with their own consumption?
Last week I talked about the grave danger of saying prayers of first-world privilege and entitlement. Those are the prayers that ask God to spare us from trials and tribulations. People in poor, persecuted, or war-torn places ask God to strengthen them because they understand that faith does not immunize us from suffering in this life.
Only Americans live with the illusion that our faith guarantees us wealth, health, and a free pass. Much of our unhappiness is rooted in that unreasonable expectation of life. It leaves us disappointed with, and alienated from, God.
God hasn’t promised to make our dreams come true if we believe and behave, and God hasn’t threatened to punish us if we don’t. Rather, God has offered to go with us on this journey.
Perhaps hell really is just forgetting that, and perhaps hell also is forgetting that God has put us here to go through this together.
Rev. Michael Piazza