God, pain and sermons
This past Sunday, Kevin finished the series on redemption. You can listen to here if you missed it. His thesis was one which isn't very popular with most churches: that the power of God is not "superman power," the strength to prevent any ill befalling us, but rather it is redemptive power, the power to enter into human life and in solidarity fill it with divine life. Of course this is also a discussion about theodicy, too. He noted the difficult question that we all ask, "Why did this happen Lord?" and laid out two of our church culture answers which don't really suffice;
1. He could have stopped it from happening but chose not to.I understand we mean well when we try and comfort with these ideas, but they end up as dismissive phrases of consolation. The first one is true in one respect - an all-powerful God who is responsible for creating the universe might have created on without any problems, but that is primordial, and it would not be a world with any morally significant choice. We would be God's sea monkeys and the staggering possibility of John 15:15, that we would be friends of God(!) would be impossible. The second answer makes God the murderer, the thief, the disease, the oppression, etc. It means the evil and disaster in the world tell us something about God, and I simply cannot believe that, nor do I think that ultimately, that is the witness of scripture.
2. Everything happens for a reason.
More to the point, regardless of how we feel or preach or think, since the dawn of time, we quite simply have not been spared injury and injustice. Yeats captured a glimpse of the reality of the world in his poem, The Second Coming:
Turning and turning in the widening gyreThe world is fallen and pretending God puts us in a magic shell that protects us from all of it ignores reality and most importantly, how Jesus actually saves us! Dear TBN, your prayer cloth didn't quite work....
The falcon cannot hear the falconer.
Things fall apart;the center cannot hold,
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world...
Our answers in some way seem to mirror our emotional state in the face of pain and trial. The question, "Why" is a fair one, and necessary to grieve through. But ultimately there is no good reason that bad happens and the question of "why" keeps us always looking backwards at the past, lost to the injury. I guess I'm saying it occurred to me that though I love the question "why," it ultimately brings me no healing. Even a good answer still leaves me wounded.
Redemption, on the other hand moves me forward. There is a way it deals with reality, accepts that grievous injury has occurred and asks, "now what God?" "How do I keep on living" The biblical answer, I think, is that Jesus, having entered our history and experiencing our pain, brings a life-filled way out for us. To have the pain in our life redeemed doesn't mean that God makes it ok or justifies it, on the contrary. The death of Christ reveals that death and pain themselves are unjust intruders. Christ, the skilled artisan, through his love and understanding, brings life into our dead places because he knows them. In short, redemption looks forward.
So that's my current musing - the "why" questions keep me frozen in time, looking for answers where there are none, holding me in a kind of denial that bad things can't happen.
"Why was my car stolen?"But looking for redemption seeks the presence of God in the tragedy and misery of our condition.
"Why did he do that to me?"
"Why can't I get a break"
"Why is life so hard"
"How do I heal"I guess I'm thinking that redemption resolves hurt without patronizing it, without focusing on things that cannot be changed, but looks to move forward into healing.
"How can I trust again?"
"Where are you now, Lord?"