Dear Christ Church,
“The God of freedom, the true God, is… not recognized by his power and glory in the history of the world, but through his helplessness and his death in the scandal of the cross of Jesus” (Jurgen Moltmann).Christine and I, with about forty Christ Church-ers, have been reflecting on these words in the context of the helplessness, death and suffering we’ve witnessed in Guatemala. Two teams this month have served in the communities surrounding the largest garbage dump in Latin America.
Meanwhile, we have also tracked the news of the tragic mass shooting in Orlando, where death and suffering has touched 49 victims and their families in our own country. I’ve been encouraged to see the practical and servant-hearted response of churches in Orlando who “mourn with those who mourn,” and responses like this from Christianity Today. Was this a homophobic hate crime, pure and simple? Or an act of Islamic extremism? Or was it just a case of mental illness, with no rational explanation? Though our sound-byte culture favors reductionistic explanations, it may be all of the above, all at once, plus one more that won’t be found in news reports:
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph 6:12).
So much brokenness produces such great suffering from Guatemala to Orlando to Austin. As followers of the risen Lord, we do not live in fear or despair. There is a hope that we have as followers of the suffering Christ, rooted in the fact that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again. We look forward to that day in intercession, comforting those who mourn, seeking agency where we can, contending for Shalom. We know the promised kingdom that is now, and is to come. Speaking of the hope we have Moltmann employs a powerful metaphor from the world of ranching, where the prod or “goad” is used to move the animals forward: “. . . for the goad of the promised future stabs inexorably into the flesh of every unfulfilled present.” This world is moving in the direction of God’s promises, and he invites our personal, local, loving and prayerful participation.
I wish I could describe the challenge and the beauty of the lives of Guatemalan believers who live with prophetic hope, joy, and grace in the context of extreme poverty, loss, and grief. They are my teachers in kingdom matters, saints who instruct me in hope. This picture is worth a thousand descriptive words, a home in the slums teeming with cultivated life, plants lovingly and defiantly nurtured to bear witness to joy and light, goads of the promised future stabbing inexorably into the flesh of this present darkness.