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here]: Jesus is the centre of our faith, Community is the centre of our life and Reconciliation is the centre of our work. I think using this threefold approach can help us in thinking through how we live our lives in a time of violence and war. First, ‘Jesus is the centre of our faith’ is a call to take Jesus' life and teachings as seriously as his death and resurrection. What Jesus said and how he lived provides us a clue to how we can live in this time. At the centre are the gospel accounts of his life and at the heart is the Sermon on the Mount. What we find is that Jesus consistently invites his followers to love their enemies, to care for the other, to reach out to the poor and the powerless, to offer mercy and hope, to give without expecting anything in return and to actively resist evil with good. With this understanding then, we are able to read the Bible through the lens of Jesus life and teachings and understand the rest of our New Testament and the Jewish scriptures in this light. Jesus didn’t resort to violence or to forcing himself on others, didn’t use coercion but rather willingly gave himself and called on all those who chose to follow him to do likewise. He spoke about the practical realities of which included walking the second mile, turning the other cheek, giving to those in need without expecting anything in return and trusting that the God of life was in the midst of this way of being. Retaliation, fear, asserting power over the other was not the way Jesus lived or taught his closest followers to live. The mystery and wonder of Jesus life and teaching seems to end in the cross, in giving himself on behalf of his enemies and then ultimately ends in resurrection – God breaks in, but in a way that is completely unexpected. So, Jesus being the centre of our faith invites us to live as he did. The second element is that community is the centre of our lives. This is what Paul is speaking to when he confronts the chasm that separates Gentile and Jewish followers of Jesus – there is no longer ‘them and us’, but it is now ‘we’. Or when Paul fleshes out Jesus' teachings in his letter to the Galatians by saying that there is no longer slave or free, male or female, but that in the new economy of Jesus' community all are welcome, all are equal, all are beloved of God. The South African concept of ubuntu – ‘I am because we are’ is another way of thinking about this. In taking Jesus seriously we come to understand that there is no ‘other’ that we can turn away from or demonize but all are part of God’s family. If we take this understanding seriously then we begin to recognize a common bond between us all human beings. Then we begin to recognize that we need each other and that God’s light and grace is there in all of us. The third concept is that reconciliation is the centre of our work. If it is true that we are all God’s beloved, and Jesus calls us to love all, friend and enemy alike, then we are challenged to take on this task as well. Reconciliation assumes that there is something that needs to be healed, or repaired, or brought back together. The ‘Confession of Faith’ of our Mennonite denomination says it this way: ‘God created the world in peace, and God's peace is most fully revealed in Jesus Christ. We follow Christ in the way of peace, doing justice, bringing reconciliation, and practicing non-resistance even in the face of violence and warfare. Reconciliation is dangerous because it puts us in the midst of conflict, but with the intention of offering a new way, a third way through the violence – not force or capitulation but the hope of reconciliation, a better alternative. It is also with the recognition that suffering may be part of this work. If we take seriously the work of reconciliation and of Jesus call to love friends and enemies alike, then this has the potential to put us at odds with authorities and governments and powers. We can then no longer let others define who our enemies are or should be. We can then no longer support the use of violence to destroy those who are deemed to be ‘the other’. We can then no longer accept or condone the use of force on our behalf. If we take seriously the way of Jesus, we are challenged to rethink what it looks like to respond to enemies, especially in times like these where things seem so cut and dried, so obvious. The problem with this is, that as soon as we begin to think in this way, that is to act as if violence is not the answer, there is this tension between what is perceived as a naive approach to the world and a ‘realpolitik’ – that is the idea that there are just some things that you need to do in the real world. This is just how it is even if Jesus says something different. Parker Palmer, a well known Quaker writer and thinker speaks about this notion as a ‘tragic gap’ that exists between the ‘hard realities around us and what we know is possible’. As we look at the world and reflect on the promises of the Reign of God which we believe in and hold to, we recognize the gap between what is and what we long for. He writes, ‘As you stand in the gap between reality and possibility, the temptation is to jump onto one side or the other. If you jump onto the side of too much hard reality, you can get stuck in corrosive cynicism…If you jump onto the side of too much possibility, you can get caught up in irrelevant idealism. You float around in a dream state saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice if...?” These two extremes sound very different, but they have the same impact on us: both take us out of the gap — and the gap is where all the action is. That’s the gap Martin Luther King Jr. stood in his entire life, the gap Nelson Mandela [stood in]. That’s the gap where Rosa Parks and Dorothy Day stood. I call it “tragic” because it’s a gap that will never close…No one who has stood for high values — love, truth, justice — has died being able to declare victory, once and for all. If we embrace values like those, we need to find ways to stand in the gap for the long haul...’ Palmer then goes on to speak about how we can live in this tension – in this gap. It is not easy but it is something that we can move towards. What is necessary, he writes is faithfulness. ‘That’s what it takes to stand in the tragic gap... And when people are faithful to a task, they often become more effective at it as well. [By faithfulness] I mean being true to my own gifts, true to my perception of the world’s needs, and true to those points where my gifts and those needs intersect.' It seems to me that this is how we are invited then to navigate what it means to be followers of Jesus, simply being faithful to what we are able to do, to our best understandings of Jesus way and to the needs we see around us. As examples of what this can look like to stand in the ‘tragic gap’ I offer these two examples. In South Korea, military service is mandatory for all young men. There are no legal provisions for conscientious objection. According to the United Nations, of the 723 COs imprisoned worldwide, 669 (92.5 percent), are incarcerated in South Korea. Most of the Korean COs are members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Lee Sang Min, a member of Grace and Peace Mennonite Church in Seoul, is the first South Korean Mennonite to refuse military service because of his commitment to Christ. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison on 30 April 2014. He will have a criminal record upon his release. Being a Christian pacifist in Korea is a very difficult thing. Opposing military service in South Korea is seen as a betrayal of one’s country and as sympathy with North Korea. Conscientious objectors and their families experience ostracism and isolation. Yet Sang Min has made this choice because he believes Christ calls him to take a stand against war. He says, “I want the next generation to live in a better place which respects individual choice and beliefs. I believe this is part of the Kingdom of God.” In the mid-1990s a long civil war finally ended in Mozambique. One of the people who helped negotiate a peace agreement was Anglican archbishop Dinis Sengulane. After the war’s end, he travelled the country, asking people what might jeopardize this agreement in the feature. One woman told him bluntly, “Guns.” After years of war, the country was awash in guns. According to the woman, it would be only too easy for people to use them again. After thinking and praying, the archbishop suggested a disarmament project that would help prevent a resurgence of violence. At his encouragement, the Christian Council of Mozambique developed a program called Transforming Arms into Ploughshares. Under this program, people could turn in their weapons in exchange for agricultural implements, sewing machines or other tools that could improve their lives. The weapons, in turn, would be dismantled and made into productive objects or pieces of art. Since its inception in 1995, the project has collected over 800,000 pieces of war equipment. Many of these weapons have been transformed into crosses and are worn by clergy around the world. Others have been fashioned into chairs, tables, and works of art. Two of the most famous pieces of art are the ‘Tree of Life’ and ‘Throne of Weapons’ both on display at the British Museum. (3) More recently ‘Transforming arms into ploughshares’ has carried out trainings in peace education and conflict transformation, supported by Mennonite Central Committee, as a part of new Water for Weapons project, which provides a clean water source to communities that turn over their weapons. In a still fragile post-conflict situation, it works at disarming people’s hands, hearts and minds. Standing in the gap, in the tragic gap as Parker Palmer invites us to, is our calling as Jesus followers. Examples like Lee Sang Min and Anglican Archbishop Dinis Sengulane encourage us and give us hope and encouragement. Let us continue to pray for them, for each other and for the peace of God to break into our world. (1)(2)(3) http://mcccanada.ca/learn/what/peace/peace-sunday-2014
Susan McCaslin Let the hinges of our hearts swing open to things we can’t explain – the unexpected remission of a stubborn cancer, birth of a child when conception is deemed ‘impossible’, release from a longstanding addiction, a moment of reunion with a loved one long deceased. Let’s not demand or expect mystical graces, or cling to the hope of them, or be disappointed if they don’t happen. Let’s acknowledge there are mysteries beyond our knowing, unaccountable magic in the neurons and cells. Help us experience daily the astonishing in the apparently ordinary – laugh of a crow pirouetting in space a peace gladiola blooming beyond its term, a slug who travels six inches in two hours to its longed for haven in the grass until the kingdom of heaven is spread out before us, and the glory flames forth in our unrepeatable uniqueness. ‘One of the common elements of the resurrection stories’, David Lose writes, ‘…is that no one expects the resurrection. Even though Jesus predicted his death…and resurrection…several times…no one greets the news that God has raised Jesus from the grave and defeated death…by saying, “Praise God!” No one shouts “Hallelujah” when they hear that their friend and Lord has been raised to life. And absolutely no one, on hearing the news that death itself could not hold the Lord of Glory captive, says, “I knew it – just like he said!” (David Lose, Workingpreacher.com Easter, 2013) Well, can you just imagine - It’s dark with dawn just breaking through the clouds and she is making her way to the tomb. There is still a chill in the air. She hasn’t slept – tossing and turning all night - as soon as she closes her eyes all she sees is the horrific images of his broken body. That‘s all she can imagine. She and her friends; Jesus’ mother and his aunt – helpless, wailing and overcome as they tore his body, broke it and broke their hearts. Finally just before sundown she and some of his closest friends took him down, quickly wrapped him in a burial sheet and put it in the cave. The raw reality of the one she loved, the one who offered hope – gone. They sealed it with a stone to keep out marauding dogs or thieves. She’s on her way to the garden where Joseph’s graciously offered, newly occupied tomb is – down the road, on the edge of the town. Not sure what she expects to see but when you are grieving you don’t really know what you are looking for or expecting anyway, in fact you are not expecting anything, nothing. She just needs to be close, to just be there, to sit and remember, to cry. Where else would she go, what else is there to do? She remembers this same loss, emptiness, despair when her brother died. That deep immeasurable chasm. When she gets there, she can’t quite make out what it is that’s different. In the ‘just breaking dawn’ she sees the stone but its not where she remembered it was. And she thinks she is imaging things. But then it all becomes clear and she bursts out with a loud wail. The tomb is empty. After all that she and the others had been through, now this. Someone has moved or stolen his body. That is the only explanation for why the rock blocking the entrance has been pushed aside. And so in a panic, in a daze she runs back to the home where some of her friends are staying - Peter, John and some of the others. She bangs on the door and when John comes out she blurts out what she’s seen. She’s out of breath and not speaking coherently. Something about the body is gone, the stone has been moved. They haven’t been sleeping either. They are up, sitting around and wondering what they are going to do next. They are terrified; afraid they will be hunted down now as well because they are known to be his accomplices. Should they just stay and hunker down; go back to their home communities. Even though Jesus talked about his death they always dismissed it as a ‘never going to be’ reality. They had never imagined themselves being in this situation. And then Mary bursting in, agitated, barely able to speak – something about ‘he’s gone’. Somebody took his body!’ And so they pull on their shoes, Peter and John do, and race out the door. They go down the back alley, across Jebediah’s field, through the creek and across front yards, running as fast as they can. ‘Who did this? If I catch them… '. John the ‘beloved one’ is quicker and gets to the garden first. Maybe younger or in better shape, and just like Mary said, the cave is open, rock is pushed back. So he makes his way tentatively into the opening, letting his eyes adjust to the dark and sees the burial sheet and the kerchief that was covering his head – both lying there neatly folded but no body. Nothing. He doesn’t go in – he’s just not sure what to do –stunned; frightened. But then Peter rushes in beside him, almost pushes him aside and goes right in. Out of breath, he looks around at the scene John has just taken in and then stops. And all is stillness. He’s gone. The one thing that at least they had to remember him by – at least they could come back to the grave site and try to remember his voice and his care for them. At least they would have a place where they could gather to be with him as much as it was possible to be with a dead person. But now even that hope was shattered. Something happens just then. We are not told how exactly it comes to the beloved one, but he begins to imagine another reality. He sees something more – with what is not there he begins to envision a different story of might be. It says that ‘he saw and believed’. He begins to see a new possibility. He has caught a glimpse of something, maybe out of the corner of his eye, maybe a reflection, or maybe something in his mind’s eye, He’s silent but there is a pregnant silence, a hope filled silence, an empty tomb but not as empty as when he first arrived. Maybe he quietly tells Peter, ‘let’s go back’, or just slowly makes his way down the path. And so they go, back to their friends, back to something but now something that isn’t quite the same, but not quite right either. Peter, still out of breath, wondering what to make of all this, what to make of the beloved one, who always had a different take on things. They walk, not saying anything, thinking, wondering, just possibly on the cusp of hoping although nothing has really changed. So, if you think being a child of the resurrection means you have everything figured out, then think again. "When the disciples [first heard the news] some doubted." That's okay. The resurrection is big enough to handle our doubt… for the same elements of worship, doubt, and little faith were [there] after Easter as before. Whatever the nature of the resurrection event, it did not generate perfect faith even in those who experienced it firsthand. It is not to angels or perfect believers, but to the worshiping wavering community of disciples to whom Jesus appears. (New Interpreter's Bible) As Peter and John left they would have passed Mary, maybe they see her, maybe they don’t. Mary must have followed them back to the tomb, running as well. And so they leave and she is again left with this emptiness, this hole. And then, seeing that her friends had gone into the tomb, she too looks inside for herself. And as she looks, she sees something. Is she imagining it, is it real, is it a vision; is it her grief? What her senses tell her is that there are two beings, angels is the only thing she can imagine them as. They were not there a few minutes ago but now they are – strange, but then stranger things have happened. And one, or both of them speak to her – asks her a question. She has to ask them to repeat it again, she is just not connecting. ‘Why are you crying?’ they ask. ‘Why am I crying?!' She thinks to herself. ‘I’m here in the tomb of my dear friend with his body missing and you ask me why am I crying?’ But she realizes this may be the help she has been looking for – maybe there is an answer here. And so out loud she says: ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put him.’ Do you know? Can you help? There is a moment of silence and then she senses movement - crackling branch, a sound of some kind and there is someone standing in the garden behind her. We are told it is Jesus but she doesn't know this. You know how it is when you see someone in a different context, or different clothing. Jesus is dead so that doesn’t occur to her to imagine it being him. And then the stranger asks her the same question the two angels have asked – ‘why are you crying? Who are you looking for?’ And again she repeats the same refrain – ‘They have taken my Lord and I don’t know where they have put his body. Do you know?' She is not yet able to see clearly and imagines that it is the gardener. This is a guess, but a reasonable one. It is a garden; the person is wandering around early on a workday morning, probably taking care of things. If anyone should know, it would be him. And so she invites him to confess. ‘Just tell me. If you have taken him, whatever the reason, just tell me and I’ll take care of it. All I want is to get his body back.’ You can hear the desperation in her voice, the pleading, hope against hope that he will know something, will have seen something. And we are kept in suspense as well. We’ve already had it revealed to us who this gardener is, and are just waiting for Mary to get it, to finally see clearly. And then, he speaks her name, calls to her. We have all had those experiences when someone calls us by name. We understand the deep connection there is being called by our name, being known, fully and truly and lovingly known. All of that captured by the voice and the way our names are pronounced and given back to us. When she hears this it is like scales fall from her eyes. ‘Who are you looking for’ is revealed to her. He is looking for her. As soon as he calls her by name she recognizes him. This is the last thing she has been expecting. Yes she was hoping to find him again but cold, beginning to decay, wrapped up in a death shroud and needing to be placed back into the tomb. But this. Not in her wildest dreams. She couldn’t have even imagined. But we know – we’ve been let in on the secret. And we begin to remember that first garden long ago, one where in the cool of the evening the new couple would walk and we are told that the one, the Holy one, walked with them and was part of their lives. Here in this garden, the Holy one is revealed to Mary and again becomes part of her life. She wants to embrace him but even though there are things going on with him that are the same as they were before, there are other things that are different. He is similar but he is also somehow other. What he does do is encourage her to go tell her friends. We don’t know what happens next – does he disappear; does she simply leave; do they chat for a while. All this is left to our imaginations. What we are told is that she goes off to tell her friends “I have seen the Lord.” The inklings of belief that the beloved disciple had are true – somehow, beyond all understandings and wonderings, Jesus is back. How he came back, what kind of a body he has, all those details are left unanswered. All that we know is that he is no longer in the tomb. He is now in the garden and then in their midst. Something beyond imagining has happened. And this is where we come in. Because of the stories that they have left us, that many others have taken as their own and lived with and lived by, we too are invited to imagine what it is that happened that day in that place. We too are invited to imagine again the wonder and mystery and grace of life given, of hope restored of the possibility of resurrection. This is how one theologian, Jurgen Moltmann describes it: “Easter is a feast…the feast of freedom...For Easter begins the laughter of the redeemed, the dance of the liberated...since time immemorial Easter hymns have celebrated the victory of life by laughing at death, mocking hell and ridiculing the mighty ones who spread fear and terror around them. [For] the resurrection faith is not proved true by means of historical evidence or only in the next world. (Rather) it is proved here and now through the courage of revolt, and the protest against deadly powers… for Christ’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s rebellion...when through the Spirit all death, and every rule and every authority and every power is at last abolished (Bread and Wine: readings for lent and Easter p. 146ff. It is the power of God’s love overcoming death; the power of love overcoming fear. And as James Loney, one of the Christian Peacemaker Team members who was held in captivity in Iraq puts it, “Fear is about worrying what will happen next. But the resurrection story says there is something beyond that, which is bigger. It makes sense of the suffering one endures for the sake of the liberation of every human being from bondage. The Easter message is that the power of love is stronger than fear. It cannot be contained by a tomb” (Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun, March 28/13) It is this new reality we are invited to imagine today. Hope, life, love. God’s invitation to take on the powers of darkness and to say no them. DEAR CLOWN OF GOD ~ Susan McCaslin Jesus of jests and holy foolery, spin us on the wheel of your wit till we fall on the floor laughing at the deep simplicity of it all. Teach us to dance like David, to fling off our heavy suits like Francis, tease the Caesars of this world till they fall earthward like children. Let’s all dine together at the madcap feast of fools, playing hide and seek with our too-certain identities. Be in us crazy wisdom, smarter than the savvy heads of corporations. Incorporate us into the body electric. Tickle our fancy till we fancy joys beyond materialism. Make us laugh into tears and weep into the glory of now.
(Bradley Call: 1) We’d feel some compassion and soften the blow, but Jesus doesn’t. I don’t think the question he is asking is just about money, but rather about discipleship – what does it mean to follow Jesus. But in the end it is the money. If you are a fan of Dragon’s Den you know Kevin O’Leary. He’s got that persona that works well as an antagonist on the show and you probably know his line as he’s trying to get some information from a potential entrepreneur. "Where’s the money? It’s all about the money.” In this story it is about values and treasures and it is bundled up in the possessions that the would-be disciple has. It is about the money for the guy who walks away. It is about what he chooses to hold on to. He is not able to follow Jesus because he has his hands full. Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “The catch is, you have got to be free to receive the gift. You cannot be otherwise engaged...You cannot accept God’s gift if you have no spare hands to take it with. You cannot make room for it if all your rooms are already full. You cannot follow if you are not free to go…That is why the rich, young ruler went away sorrowful,...He could not believe that the opposite of rich might not be poor but free…” She goes on to say that Jesus called and many others followed him “and stuff got left behind. Not because it was bad, but because it was in the way. Not because they had to, but because they wanted to. (Jesus) called, and nothing else seemed all that important anymore.” (Barbara Brown Taylor, The Preaching Life, 124-125). I think this gets back to the idea of blessing. Yes, discipleship can be costly – we know this from reading Jesus seriously and from people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and countless others who have paid the price. But the benefits are a life of wholeness and blessing. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God.” “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted” - even rich young rulers who give up all they have? Even rich young rulers who walk away? Even them. The story of the young rich man doesn’t end with him walking away. It ends with a conversation Jesus has with those who have not walked away and have made significant sacrifices to do stay. To them Jesus makes a pronouncement. The disciples, looking at this fine upstanding religious man, ask if he can’t be saved what is the likely hood of any of the rest making it. And Jesus tells them ‘With God, all things are possible.’ We’ve heard this before in conversations with Abraham and Sarah and with conversations with the young girl Mary on the brink of an adventure that changed her life. When they ask ‘how can this be’, the response is ‘with God all things are possible’. And in this story, the impossible is that camels sometimes make it through the needles eye. All things are possible. As followers of Jesus it seems to me the one thing we know about following is that it happens every day. Every day is a new experience and another part of the journey. Every day is another chance, another opportunity to move towards maturity, towards being more fully in tune with God’s intentions in the world. Every day we get to choose life rather than death. Perhaps this may be the case for this person as well – perhaps he reconsiders and comes back. Kent Annan’s book Following Jesus through the eye of the needle has been helpful in my wealthy journey. In it he wrestles with what it means to be a wealthy person living in Haiti and working for development and justice. As he grapples with his own fortunate situation in contrast to his Haitian friends - being born in the USA, having an airline ticket home if he needs to get out in a hurry, taking his pregnant wife back to Miami for the delivery of their baby because of complications in the birth – he speaks to what it means to live with the tensions that all these things bring. I appreciate Annan because he doesn’t resolve things neatly. He does, however, give some handles, points in a direction we can walk toward and offers four pointers in the direction of faithfulness in relation to our wealth. 1. Confess and then turn away from what’s blocking you. Jesus saw that the rich young man’s wealth kept him from following: “Sell it all and give the money to the poor... the wealth kept him from being able to really follow with dedication. Jesus exposed his idol. Identify your idols. What’s keeping you from making a difference?... What are you holding on to that keeps you from fitting through the eye of the needle? Next question: How can you give it away, kill it, disarm it, confess it, starve it, walk away from it? 2. Start on a personal journey—along with some other people. Journeys aren’t always easy, with energy surging and waning. Knowing this, get involved with a small group. Together you can learn more, avoid certain pitfalls, celebrate joys and find a way through the sadness (which will surely come) when the suffering of other people is overwhelming. 3. Help people nearby. Suffering can immobilize us. Act! Move! Now! That the big picture is so overwhelming makes this really important. I focus on the people and communities I know. How are they making progress... Don’t wait for the perfect cause or the perfect personal fit. Do thoughtful looking, but not for too long. Choosing where to get involved isn’t a lifetime commitment. 4. Commit to a movement. Get involved with some kind of larger movement for justice. There are fundamental structural injustices bigger than any of us can change as individuals or small, local groups…Each of us, no matter where we are, can start—whether with a simple, practical decision or with a radical change in direction. Jesus invites us on a fascinating, demanding journey. (3) Sometimes like the rich young ruler, we can’t follow Jesus directly, but rather than walking away, maybe we can take a path that intersects with Jesus a little further along the way, stumble our way towards Jesus. Rather than going in the opposite direction, what if we go at an angle that will allow us to intersect Jesus a little further along the way, to give us a second chance, or a third… Let me end with a prayer written by Henri Nouwen: Dear God, I am so afraid to open my clenched fists! Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to? Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands? Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me. And what you want to give me is love, unconditional, everlasting love. Amen.
world centre for Reconciliation. The first action that was made was to partner with Dresden, Germany which experienced the fury of the Allied fire bombing. Today there is an international group called ‘The Community of the cross of nails’ working for peace and reconciliation. The Psalmist continues with these words: Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations God has brought on the earth. God makes wars cease to the end of the earth; God breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; God burns the shields with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. This is the hope we have and that we cling to, sometimes firmly and full of assurance and other times with our fingers just about the slip off. Along with the Psalmist and his community, we do this together and with many others around the globe and with those who have gone before us. The Psalmist continues to affirm that ‘the God of Jacob is with us’. For the writer it is not a question of whether God exists or not, or whether there is evidence for God in the face of the tragedies that have unfolded. For the Psalmist, God is a given and that God is on the side of the suffering is a given as well. How this will work itself out isn’t explained. But that God will prevail – that justice and grace and mercy will win the day – is simply expected to happen. This work and countless other examples like this are evidence of the God of the Psalmist at work in our world. In ‘Rumours of another world’ Philip Yancey writes, ‘It takes the mystery of faith always, to believe, for God has no apparent interest in compelling belief…they are just that, rumors and not proofs [for] a thin membrane of belief separates the natural from the supernatural…We do not have the capacity to apprehend God directly. [Rather] we see God best in the same way we see a solar eclipse: not by staring at the sun, which would cause blindness, but through something on which the sun is projected’ (pp. 35, 41). God is at work, but it takes eyes of faith to see. As we remember those who have gone on before us we reflect on the promise of the Psalmist. That a new heaven and a new earth are part of what is being spoken of, for what is promised is the renewal of all things. From the Psalmist on through the story of Jesus and to the end of the New Testament assurance is given that a new world has begun. In reflecting on this in his book ‘Surprised by Hope’ N.T. Wright writes, when the final resurrection occurs…we will discover that everything done in the present world in the power of Jesus’ own resurrection will be celebrated and included…transformed... and that every act of love, every deed done in Christ and by the Spirit, every work of true creativity like doing justice, or making peace, healing families, and resisting temptation, like seeking and winning true freedom – is an earthly event in the long history of things that implement Jesus’ own resurrection and anticipate the final new creation…’ The Psalmist proclaims what we can continue to affirm, that ‘God is our refuge and strength’. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have anything to do or simply passively sit back. Rather it means that the actions we take for justice, and the prayers we offer up for healing, and the ways in which we long to bring healing to others and the opportunities we have to say a kind word or give a helping hand or give of our wealth or poverty will all be honored and valued and not lost. All that is good and lovely will find fruit. And our task is to continue to be reconcilers and carriers of this gospel of suffering love for each other, for those who have no faith and for those who are too weak or lonely or overwhelmed to carry it on their own. Together along with the Psalmist we can continue to proclaim that we do not need to fear for love is stronger than fear.
Voices From Lemnos~ Seamus Heaney
History says, Don't hope On this side of the grave, But then, once in a lifetime The longed-for tidal wave Of justice can rise up And hope and history rhyme.