Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Everywhere Present

In the wake of the horrible tragedy in CT last Friday, the above viral photo-post appeared numerous times in both my Facebook feed and also in my husband's. 

He offered the following response, and I thought it worthwhile for sharing.

"In the last days some of my Facebook friends have re-posted a “letter to God”, asking how He could have allowed the tragedy in Connecticut to happen, and the punch line is that God reminds the writer that He isn't allowed in (public) schools. My friends offer this story, I assume, as a commentary on the laws of our land and the sad state we find ourselves in when we witness children being murdered.

Respectfully, I disagree with the punch line. The God I believe in is everywhere, filling all things, dwelling within us, comforting, sanctifying and redeeming us all. There is no place from which God is absent. None.

God is there in the valley of the shadow of death for the Psalmist, He is there in the lion’s den for Daniel, in the furnace with the three youths, turning the flames of death into the dew of salvation. God is there with the martyrs who accept death rather than deny His goodness and presence. God is in the brothel, in the crack house, in the halls of every school or shopping mall where shooters kill innocent people. From the deepest sea to the highest mountain - God is there.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, remember that we celebrate the reality of the pre-eternal God humbling Himself and putting on our mortality - our broken flesh - like bait on a hook so that He could go into the deepest place of corruption and decay (the grave) and defeat death from the inside, completely shattering death’s hold on us. The sweet baby Jesus, asleep on the hay, submits to death so that there is now NO PLACE where He is “not”.

Would allowing prayer in our public schools prevent shooters killing kids in school? No. Look at the history of the Christian church - faithful believers have been struck down during the very act of worshiping - dragged from churches or killed on the spot. Believing in God and worshiping Him will not protect you from an unfair, violent death. BEING God didn't prevent Jesus from the same.

How would we even decide what kind of prayer to have in our schools? The prayer of contemporary non-denominational “religion” that is so generic it doesn't address any specific God? of the Protestant fundamentalist stripe? of the Christ embraced by the KKK? (they use crosses and quote scripture...) or of the group that claims God hates fags? What if one of those “religious” persons was your child’s teacher - would you want them leading your kids in prayer?

All of this is a scandal, a stumbling block. It’s the paradox that while we want to be like Jesus (WWJD?), we can’t be Christ Triumphant unless we’re also willing to be Christ Crucified. Turning the other cheek, forgiving, being humble to the point of death. Impossible - for us to do on our own; but what is not possible for us is possible for God.

I have faith that God is in our schools because God dwells in the temple of our hearts, in the flesh that He put on and took with Himself, first into the grave and then into heaven. Our flesh, our mortality, is blessed and made holy by God becoming one of us. Nothing can take that away.

So we grieve the loss of innocent children and adults - it sucks, it’s wrong, it’s sinful and broken and corrupt. But as we grieve, we do so knowing that the ultimate battle has been fought and won. God with us, Emmanuel. Always."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Hymn for Advent

This hymn has been on my mind all week.

By William & Annabeth Gay

Each winter as the year grows older,
We each grow older too.
The chill sets in a little colder;
The verities we knew
Seem shaken and untrue.

When race and class cry out for treason,
When sirens call for war,
They overshout the voice of reason
And scream till we ignore
All we held dear before.

Yet I believe beyond believing,
That life can spring from death:
That growth can flower from our grieving;
That we can catch our breath
And turn transfixed by faith.

So even as the sun is turning
To journey to the north,
The living flame, in secret burning,
Can kindle on the earth
And bring God's love to birth.

O Child of ecstasy and sorrows,
O Prince of peace and pain,
Brighten today's world by tomorrow's,
Renew our lives again;
Lord Jesus, come and reign!