Do Not Our Hearts Burn Within Us?

I hope I do not turn my face away from the flames.

A White Christian’s prayer

Pentecost fires are burning this week.

I hope the fires burn away my apathy as a white Christian in a racist society. I hope my malaise burns away too. I hope I do not turn my face away from the flames.

Pentecost fires remind me of other biblical fires.

  • “Did not our hearts burn within us?” the disciples on the road to Emmaus asked. They thought they were traveling with a stranger. The stranger was Jesus. Crucified. Resurrected. Walking the way with them.
  • A bush burns but does not burn up. God calls to Moses in the flames. Moses says “yes.” But he doesn’t want to.
  • The Israelites follow a flaming pillar through the wilderness. It is night. They are afraid. God’s fire shows the way.
  • A fire warms Peter’s hands. He breathes words of denial into the night air. They float away. Hot embers on the wind.
  • Jesus builds a fire and cooks breakfast on the beach. His followers taste resurrection in the ash-smoked fish. 

In Scripture, in the days and months after Pentecost, the church wrestled with its identity. Who are we? Who are we to become? What is our purpose?

What about us today? Who are we? Who are we to become? Can we imagine and ignite a new thing? A more hopeful way? A way of justice?

I pray we can.

But before that can happen, we must confess and lament. We haven’t confessed our complicity in racism. Not really. And we haven’t lamented the deaths of black and brown people in our communities. Not really.

We need radical lament.

Radical is from the Latin radix and means root or base. We need to lament the root cause of violence against our sisters and brothers—the sin of white racism.

We need radical lament. And we must lament radically—with our whole bodies. God is calling to us through Pentecost flames to take action, to stand against racism, to stand for justice.

So, we confess. We lament. We pray.


God of Wind and Fire,

Make our hearts burn within us–

We feel the heat of so many flames, O God.

Fires of revealing.
Fires of guiding.
Fires of denying.
Fires of resurrecting.

Make our hearts burn within us–

Fires of confessing.
Fires of lamenting.
Fires of acting.

And if we weep, O God?

May we weep tears of cleansing,
not tears of dousing, dampening, diminishing
fires that rage against injustice.

Make our hearts burn within us—

So many winds blow around us, O God.

Winds wailing with pain.
Winds howling with agony.
Winds stirring up the dust of our humanity.

            Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

Stir us up, Holy Wind.
Stir up Wisdom.
Stir up Mercy.

Make our hearts burn within us–

No more crushed windpipes, O God.
Let justice breathe.
Blow your radical love into us.
Through us.
All around us.

God of Wind and Fire,

Heal us.
Resurrect us.
Put our feet on the road to justice.

Make our hearts burn within us–

Like a Tree

We thank you for trees–and for human lives.

The pecan tree had provided a canopy over our yard for as long as I have lived here. It was so present, I forgot to remember it was there. Does that make sense?

Last week, the tree was cut down. Thundered to the ground.

Now, it is gone. And I don’t think I realized until now just how important that tree was to how I see our yard. The yard looks vacant now. And up above, where the tree touched the skyline? Empty.

That tree shaded a corner of our world. Provided fruit for wintering squirrels. She was a noble tree, and birds of many kinds were drawn to her and made their nests in her kind and welcoming branches.

I am going to miss that tree. It is amazing just how much sunlight she filtered out from our yard, and I celebrate the new light gifted to us by the tree’s absence. But–yes–I will miss her.

So, today, I honor who she was in our lives and give thanks for God’s gift of trees. They teach us, I think, to send roots down deep into God’s earth. And they teach us to be nesting places for those who need shelter from life’s storms.

Planting, cultivating God,

We thank you for trees.
For roots that search out the depths of the earth.
For branches that reach out.
For leaves that dance and play in springtime sun.

Planting, cultivating God,
We thank you for trees.

Creating, loving God,

We thank you for human lives.
For faith that searches out the depths of life.
For actions that reach out, touch, and transform communities.
For hearts that dance and play in your gracious light.

Creating, loving God,
We thank you for human lives.

We gather today to thank you especially for human lives lost to Covid-19 and for those who risk their lives to care for others in these days.

They are like trees. Planted. Growing. Thriving.
We honor them today and seek your blessing on their lives.

Create us again, loving God.
Plant us by living streams.
Cultivate in us courage to reach out, touch, and transform.

We give you thanks. For trees. And human lives. Planted.

Amen and Amen.