I remember the first time the word “faith” came into focus for me. I had joined the Navy and was serving as a Radar Technician on a Destroyer Escort, searching for “enemy” submarines. It was far more dangerous than I realized at the time. Each letter I received from home ended with these words: “Have faith”. I didn’t know exactly what that meant, so I talked with the Chaplain. He said that faith was no assurance that I would get home safe and sound, but I needed to trust God and pray daily, regardless of the outcome. So, I realized that faith is not some kind of insurance policy against the dangers of life. I believe that’s the way it is in today’s word, which, as we know, is full of a variety of dangers. “The rain falls on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).
Someone may ask, “Where was God during the Boston Marathon bombing?” It’s clear to me that God was in the hearts of those who rushed to the people who were suffering, those who risked their lives, those who valued the sacredness of life. The two accused brothers apparently had rejected this belief and were following a destructive path.
The Rev. Gerald Mann has a book, Common Sense Religion, in which he writes: “There’s a yes in every mess.” The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For all the promises of God find their ‘Yes’ in Christ. That is why we say, ‘Amen,’ through him” (II Corinthians 1:20). These words were written to the congregation in Corinth; people who were fighting amongst themselves and were guilty of lying, adultery and abusing Holy Communion. So Paul talked about love as the greatest power in the world.
If you are like me, you are looking for the “yes” in the world’s mess today. We have lived in the age of anxiety, age of industry, age of terror, and now there’s talk about “the nuclear age”. This would probably be the greatest mess of all. Frankly, I doubt that anyone in their right mind would start a nuclear war. “In their right mind” is a big assumption. Finding something positive in every negative situation is a big job. I don’t have any pat answers or easy clichés. But I do remind myself of certain thoughts in order to keep my perspective. I almost said, “keep my sanity”, but that may be asking too much.
Joann and I were coming back from Lake Charles recently, and my car had a blowout flat. The car right behind us stopped and a man, Rob Landry, from Prairieville got out and asked us if we needed help. In just a few minutes, we were back on the road again, thanks to a “Good Samaritan”. This is just a small illustration that there are people out there (everywhere) who are willing to go out of their way to help others. People like Rob Landry help keep my balance in a broken world.
I need to be reminded that Jesus lived in a terrifying time. He was not exempt, nor are we, from murderers and “those who break through and steal”. His post-resurrection message to His disciples was not to go back and zap it to the Romans. However unpopular it might have been then—and now—he asked them to “pray for those who abused them”, and to love their enemies. He was not trying to win a popularity contest, but simply to show that love is better than hatred, and that it is better to pray for your enemies than to kill them.
The Jesus ethic has never really caught on. I don’t’ believe it is pre-destined, but there are wars and rumors of war, and war in some form is likely to continue across the human landscape as long as there are people who are different from each other. The sad part is the fact that “religion” plays a major role. We need to keep praying for unity in the midst of diversity.
I offer this prayer:
Dear Lord, Thank you for the gift of life, but Lord, we need your help. I know you have given us freedom of choice, so forgive us abusing this gift and making destructive choices. Touch the hearts of those who feel that they must kill if others don’t believe as they do. I give thanks for the millions upon millions of good people who are honest, hard-working citizens, and who are trying to make a better life for all of us. Help us to life and let live, and to be decent in our deeds, and compassionate in our dealings. When we are driven to our knees, help us to know that’s a good time to pray. Please give us the strength of mind and heart to live faithfully, no matter what happens. May we ask, “What is the loving thing to do?” in all circumstances. And, by all means, help us to celebrate the good and beautiful things in life. In the name of Jesus, Amen.