Hot enough for you?

Published 8:49 am Friday, July 6, 2012

By the Rev. Cherie Daniel, Freeborn Congregational United Church of Christ in Freeborn, Alden United Methodist Church in Alden and Grace United Methodist Church in Kiester

Record-breaking temperatures combined with high humidity have created great heat indices this summer. People complain about the combination of heat with humidity — as if 100 degrees and low humidity would feel any nicer. Some people just can’t find the words to describe this phenomenon, and they say that it is “hotter than hell.” So, how hot is hell? Let’s explore!

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus warns folks to not insult the council members who have rendered their opinion in a family matter, for if they do insult the council members, Jesus said, “You will be liable to the hell of fire.” Fire. That suggests hot. The same warning is given in Matthew 18:9 regarding body parts that might lead one to stumble. Hell of fire. Hot.

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Mark’s author makes it a little more serious. About those body parts that might get someone into trouble, Jesus said, “It is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.” Unquenchable fire sounds even hotter than just a hell of fire. We know that a lovely rain or a cool breeze or a sip of iced tea might quench our current heat problems. Nothing will quench the fires promised as the result of our not being in control of our persons.

James 3 compares human beings to horses, recognizing that “If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies.” Reining in the mouth can keep the whole animal out of trouble. Human beings, too, need to rein in the words of their mouths, which can also get the person into a lot of trouble. The letter’s author states, in James 3:6, “And the tongue is a fire.  The tongue is places among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and it itself set on fire by hell.” Wow. Our mouths/tongues have a lot of power that can allow us to “burn” others with our misspoken words. Ouch.

And 2 Peter speaks of angels who sinned, and who were cast into hell and committed to chains of deepest darkness — until the Judgment Day. Hell is not only hot with an unquenchable fire, it also seems to have a section where folks will live in chains, in darkness, for nearly all eternity. This scenario, too, is not pleasant. If we are confined to or constricted by a way of living that does not allow us to “see the light,” then we, too, have been cast into a hell on earth that is most unpleasant.

I remember a story about folks from heaven and from hell having a conversation about their actions while on earth that resulted, at their deaths, in them being placed in these two places of extreme. Luke’s gospel, Chapter 16, tells the story of the rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. He ignored the poor man named Lazarus who lay at his gate seeking healing for his wounds and food for his body. Verse 22 tells “The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.” Not only did the rich man die, he was taken to Hades where he “was being tormented.” Somehow, he looked up and could see Abraham with the poor man. Remaining self-centered, the rich man asked Abraham to let the poor man bring him a bit of water to “cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.”

Remember what I said earlier about “unquenchable”? The rich man’s agony remains unquenchable because of his actions on earth.

Point being: yes, this weather is hot. Yes, the ground is dry and the small bits of rain we are promised are not going to quench the thirsting crops unless something happens soon. But, hotter than hell? I don’t think so!

Stay cool! And be nice.