Many of the very sad and tragic events of the last few weeks and months have caused us to feel frustration, anger, pain, sadness, and confusion to name only a few of the feelings that surface at times when we see people suffering and hurt by the inexplicable actions of others. Here at the church we have spent some time in worship and other settings expressing our feelings and listening to each other.
I admit that, like many of you, I would like to step aside from these conversations and move on to something more joyful. I feel that way because I know that many of you wonder where God is in the suffering of Newtown, CT, West, TX, and Boston, and so many other places around the world, and because I am sometimes fearful that you will hear my responses as simplistic or trivializing in the face of the events, or perhaps your own experiences of pain and tragedy in life.
Sometimes we have put God aside because the God we thought would always be present, seems to have let us down. Each of us has had our own journey and experiences but one truth emerges strong and sure for me; we do not forget that we are connected to others in their pain and that connection is where I believe we find God in many of these events.
Last week we heard and saw that dozens of average people and first responders ran toward the danger and the need, without thought for their own safety. Their humanity and connection with others trumped any fear they felt. For me that is – God in action. I believe the love of God is so
deeply planted into our hearts that time after time we see that people become the signs of God in this world – not indifferent – but connected and present.
Jesus said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15: 12-13
Hundreds of years ago poet John Donne wrote, “ No man is an island unto himself… each mans death diminishes me for I am involved in mankind.” John Donne 1572-1631 Meditation XV11
As we watched first responders and strangers run toward danger, not away from it, we know the word ‘friend’ goes beyond those that we know, to include all humanity, because of God’s love for all humanity.
While we may affirm this for the victims, it is more difficult for us to connect this thought for those who have perpetrated crimes against innocent people. Yet I do believe that God grieves that one of his own children could inflict such devastation and pain so callously on others. I also believe God has not abandoned us to be forever stuck in our pain and anger. The entire response of the New Testament is that, in the end, good triumphs over evil and God remains with humanity. Sometimes the triumphs are small and almost indiscernible, yet they are real. In the beautiful prologue to the Gospel of John we read : “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1: 5
As long as people run toward and not away from one another, the darkness has not won and the presence of God is real. Even in the face of such violence and blatant disregard for others, I affirm that God is running toward us with hope.
Let’s not run away from our anger or our doubts about God but let’s, even if it is with only tentative steps, confront them and work through them. Let’s not shut each other out, but be real about the challenges of faith. We may be surprised at how often we share the same feelings and we may also find that we have a measure of healing for ourselves and are strengthened to continue to bear witness to the love of God in this world.
Yours on the journey and in the struggle,