Sulfur, Torment, Doom and the Music of Bob Marley


I try to pretend it doesn’t exist
but it steals into my days
like an emergency broadcast alert
interrupts regular programming
and no matter how sunny the sky
or how much gratitude I express for my blessings
there rumbles beneath my feet
the bubbling truth
that death awaits us all
and for some, that death will last forever.
Most of us make it through day after day after day
deftly dodging the unpleasant
topic
of eternal separation from God
otherwise known
as hell
either because we’ve settled the matter for ourselves
and feel confident that we won’t be going there
or
because the we believe it’s an archaic concept
relegated to centuries past,
gone the way of the rotary phone
and traditional marriage
or
because we cannot muster sufficient love and faith
to get over our fear of what others think
enough to ward them away
from what was once commonly referred to as
eternal damnation – a fate to be avoided
not scoffed at.
And I am just like everyone else.
I spend hours focusing on the Sermon on the Mount
and the Psalms,
whistling past the graveyard of other people’s atheism
feeling I’m not doing enough to save them
but hoping another disciple will fill in the gap I leave with my
poetic, pathetic silence.
Let me be the voice of forgiveness and love and light,
I pray,
and let another bear the message
of sulfur and torment and doom.
But I love Jesus
and the Jesus I love
didn’t dodge the subject of hell.
Jesus who didn’t condemn the adulterous woman.
Jesus who famously said nothing about homosexuality.
Jesus who loved the poor, the prostitutes, the prodigal
and scolded the Pharisees, the religious elite.
Jesus who left everything
to become one of us
to suffer and die
to save us
from something that was terrible enough
to warrant a blood sacrifice
of the purest kind
to purchase our escape.
This same Jesus told a story
about Lazarus and the rich man.
Lazarus was a poor man who starved outside
the rich man’s gate.
When they died,
Lazarus went to Abraham’s side
but the rich man went to Hades
where he was tormented by fire.
The rich man cried out to Abraham
to send Lazarus to cool his tongue with a taste of water
but Abraham denied his request.
Abraham told him the chasm between them was uncrossable
and there would be no comfort for the rich man in Hades.
At that, the truth of his situation became so real
the rich man begged Abraham to send someone to warn his five brothers
to repent and to do all they could
to avoid coming to that place.
Abraham shook his head.
If the man’s brothers refuse to listen to Moses and the prophets, they surely would not listen
even if a man were to rise from the dead.
This story came from Jesus
who loved us
and died for us
and rose from the dead
and forgives our sins
and through whom everything was created
so He would know
if there is an eternal divide
between
heaven
and hell.
He seems to have been under the impression that there is.
And every day
 I am surrounded by rich men’s brothers
and sisters
and children
who don’t know anything
about Moses or prophets or dead men rising
but their ignorance of these things
will not keep them from that day
when death snatches them from this world
and drags them into the next.
And if I find myself
curled up next to Father Abraham
gazing across the great divide
I think it will be better to hear someone call out from there
that they wish they hadn’t laughed at me,
they wish they hadn’t hated me for my words,
they wish they had listened to me when they had the chance
than
to hear someone cry out, “If you knew the truth,
why didn’t you do all you could to make me listen?”
There are a lot of things and people that I can’t change
but I can decide
how I will live and love,
that I will speak the truth,
and that I won’t avoid reality
because it’s uncomfortable
or messy
or because I don’t have every answer.
I can choose bravery over cowardice,
action over avoidance,
and the words of Jesus
over some la-la version of religion
that’s closer to a Bob Marley song
than the truth Jesus came to proclaim.
Jesus managed to be welcome at parties with sinners
and able to talk about hell, too.
He lives in me.
If I pay attention, He’ll show me how He pulled it off.
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4 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Cyn Rogalski says:

    Those here on Earth are tired of hearing,”Repent!”
    Those in Hell wish they could hear it once more.

  2. Judith Robl says:

    You did it again, Lori! Speaking the truth so clearly that a six-year-old can understand and giving the pundits something deep to ponder. You have a real talent.

  3. Absolutely wonderful! No doubt about Jesus living in you 🙂

  4. Love your conclusion, Lori. He’ll show us how He pulled it off. Yes!