As I am writing this, a friend posted an article relating more violence against the Christian community in Egypt. Fortunately for us, we do not live in this type of persecution. Unfortunately for us, we often do not take advantage of the freedom we have to draw people closer to God in the midst of these tragedies. September 16th 2001 was one of the most highly attended church days in recent history in America. People came in droves looking for an answer to the recent tragedies of the week that affected our entire nation on September 11th. The following Sunday many did not return. Why? Was the answer given from the pulpit insufficient or is answering the question really insufficient in the first place.
As a person of faith and one who is often asked to answer these kinds of difficult questions there are a few things that comfort me. Jesus gives two promises in the gospel of John....”In this world you WILL have trouble, but take heart for I have CONQUERED this world so that you MAY have peace (John 16:33-34).” Jesus continues to point his disciples to the cross even, and especially, in the midst of suffering and tragedy. Jesus does not wax philosophical about answering the questions that come from tragic events he suffers with us. This is what separates Christians from all the other religions in the world. We worship a God who lives and breathes and suffers alongside of us. Not only for us but with us. Christ’s saving act on the cross is God’s answer to these tragic events - because Christ is present in our suffering....BUT Christ does not remain there, Jesus conquered this suffering by rising from the dead. This is our share in answering tragedy.
In the ancient Christian Liturgy, Christians throughout time have proclaimed the mystery of faith - “Christ has died! Christ is Risen! Christ will come again!” Past, present, and future...God is with us (Emmanuel) in our suffering and with those who suffer now because of these tragic events. More than that, God is bringing healing, light and life into the darkness of these tragic events. The Word made flesh, a light in the darkness. Our response is not to give a satisfactory answer for those with questions but to give witness to the mystery of our faith....to point to the light, Jesus the Christ, who suffers with us, brings victory through this suffering and will make all things new when he comes again. As we continue in the days surrounded by tragedy (all days) let us nail to the cross the finger pointing and endless talk of who is right and who is wrong, this group versus that group.....it is all human sinfulness. Let us instead trust in the mystery of our faith.
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 8:31-39
Praying attention, again -Pastor Andy