An unsettled spirit seems somewhat inevitable among gathering Christians of all traditions these days. People seem to evidence a special tension as they come together for worship. They hope—even yearn—for some good news. They wonder, “Is the world coming apart?”
So much around the globe would seem to instill a deep sense of dis-ease among us: the growing sickness, brutality and cruelty of ISIS; the never ending bitterness between Israel and Gaza—fueled by Hamas on one side and by conservative reactionary forces in Israel on the other side (and the deaths of so many innocent children); the growing fear of the Ebola virus with no assurance that it will not find its way to many or all nations—even to us, with no clear cure or treatment at hand; the power grab of Russia and the frantic resistance of neighboring nations; the growing threat of “drones” as a new form of warfare which could come our way in retaliation for our actions; racial tensions that can explode an any moment in any city; militant warring groups in Libya where some fighter jets have apparently disappeared; Central American refugees (mostly children) flooding into the Southwest and the mixed reactions of our citizenry; an alarming increased flow of heroin to U.S. cities suburbs; a dysfunctional Congress; continuing economic uncertainty; and more!
Most of these conditions seem beyond our ability to change or affect.
What is the “word from the Lord” in a time such as this? Where is God? What would Jesus say?
We must find a way to speak to this general discomfort with a clear and convincing word. To find a new way to declare with the God of the Old Testament, “I will not fail you or forsake you.” To know the assurance of the Psalmist who says, “Thy rod and staff comfort me.” To hear the voice of Jesus say with convincing clarity, “I am with you always to the close of the age.”
The key may be to find a way to says these things with fresh imagery and compelling language—not always an easy task, but hugely important.
The New Testament narrative tells (in several versions) of the stilling of a storm by Jesus on the Sea of Galilee. In one version, the story says there was a “great calm” or a “dead calm” as Jesus gave command. (See Mark 4:40)
There are many ways to find peace through religious practice and expression. But only with the God revealed in Jesus is there a great, absolute, unequivocal calm. This was not (says the story-teller) simply a slowing down of the wind; not a sufficient quiet to allow the disciples to paddle furiously to the shore; not a moderate localized abatement of the elements so they could swim; but a great, total, powerful, majestic calm.
Christian leadership needs to find a way to proclaim this great truth in this Fall season. I believe our people are eager and hungry for that word.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014