Dear Christ Church,
For the past few weeks we have all been praying, alone and together, for the suffering and injustice in many regions of the world. Civilians shot down over Ukraine and killed in Gaza, an infectious disease outbreak in West Africa, our brothers and sisters suffering a humanitarian crisis in Syria and being brutally slaughtered in Iraq, where entire Christian communities are being eradicated, along with Yazidis, another religious minority in the country. I commend to you the following pastoral letters, one from the new Archbishop of our North American province, the Rt. Rev. Foley Beach, and the other from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya, who also directs our global Anglican fellowship of gospel-oriented provinces. The weight of suffering sometimes feels like too much to bear; we are tempted to despair at the power of God and the hope of the gospel. Here are five things that might help us navigate the enduring gospel.
1] We can go to the Psalm for a vocabulary of lament, where David often moves from near-despair to dogged trust in the same breath. See Psalms 13, 22 and 42.
2] We can take courage from the testimony and faithfulness of our brothers and sisters who suffer greatly and even face martyrdom, yet cling to Jesus still. They themselves do not give up on God; in fact, they press further into Him. Their suffering is most honored when we are in solidarity both with their anguished cries AND their defiant and tenacious hope.
3] A better theology of suffering. American Christianity has not suffered much and the result is disciples whose faith has not been forged in fire. Our faith did not grow up in the soil of the givenness of suffering. We can more intentionally join Jesus in the places of pain around us, and around the world, and enter the fellowship of His suffering. This is part of what it means “to take up our cross?”
4] We can consider the problem of good. How do we account for such beauty and goodness as we find in this world and human race? It’s the fingerprint of God and a foretaste of what is to come in full. Christine has posted this quote on our wall, from Samwise Gamgee in the Return of the King, when he awakens to find his friends around him: “Is everything sad going to come untrue?” And the answer is a resounding “Yes.” This is our eternal and only hope.
5] Practically speaking, what can we do? We can pray, give and/or go. Some are called to gospel witness on the ground in places of injustice and darkness. Everyone else is called to intercede and financially support the works on the ground.
Praise God! Last Sunday we took up a special offering to support works related to the situations in Iraq and Syria. The mission team determined to match whatever you would give. We are all astonished and happy to report that you gave over $15,000, which means that Christ Church will be sending more than $30,000 to the organizations recommended by our Archbishop.
Come Lord Jesus!