Reflection - October 2, 2017

By Darren McClellan

published 10/2/2017
Dear Friends,
I went to bed wondering what I would write about today.  I fell well short of my best intentions last Monday, but have since gleaned a bevy of images and events that have me pondering the work and will of God.  First in my mind is the darkness disposed by the unwanted visitation of Harvey, Irma, and Maria.  Much destruction lies in the wake of these unwelcome guests, and sadly, each natural disaster is followed by the harrowing threat of an overly politicized recovery effort.  Despite our abundance, the restoration of those without power is often complicated by the insistent exaltation of those whose power is curiously preserved. 
As Paul aptly surmised, we know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; not only creation, but we ourselves… (Rom. 8:22-23).  How true!  And yet, there are signs of new creation amidst these troubled waters.  Undaunted by the groaning rhetoric of dismay, the ethical grit and grace of local communities tends to shine in these episodes of upheaval.  This hope is not in vain; it deserves the best of our labors. 

Meanwhile, with each passing day, the question lingers on…how long, O Lord?

Then I awoke this morning to the news of last night’s tragic shooting in Las Vegas.  Turning on the TV, my heart sunk to the ground as I watched the injurious shift in imagery from destroyed buildings to destroyed lives, from property to people, from facilities to flesh. 

How long will you assail a person,
will you batter your victim, all of you,
as you would a leaning wall or tottering fence? 
Their only plan is to bring down a person of prominence. 
They take pleasure in falsehood;
they bless with their mouths,
but inwardly they curse.
(Ps. 62:3-4)
How sobering it is to hear testimonies of those who were there.  In one such account, an eye witness—who was clearly still in shock and trying desperately to negotiate for himself some semblance of a silver lining—told reporters how “neat” it was to see the helpfulness of humanity on display.  He apologized for his use of the word “neat” in this context and acknowledged the inadequacy of the term, but confessed that he did not have the words to express his experience; not in the aftermath of such inconceivable brutality.  Truth be told, he surely knew there was nothing “neat” about this horrific mess, but this was the best he could do in the midst of such grief.  I suppose there are times in all of our lives when we are in need of a fresh word.

I sat in the general comfort of my living room and wondered how I might even begin to care for this gentleman were he within reach.  He may have survived physically, but what about emotionally, spiritually?  Can such a trauma be healed?  How will he find the words to do so?  Which words will he chose?  Whose words will he use to cope, and to what end?  How important is this, really? 

What would you do if he was a member of your church? 

I suspect he already is.

The local news reported a young graduate from Foley High School who was calling her mother from the concert in Las Vegas late last night.  She didn’t know what to do.  Her mother struggled to know what to say.  Friends, our pews—and especially our communities—are filled with those who don’t have the words to make sense of their story.

How can we help?  What is our perceived vocation in light of this reality?

As those whose very salvation is revealed in the presence of the Word, and whose faith is derived from a specific story of a loving, righteous, and just God who claims victory in the face of fear and death through the Word, it stands to reason that God has given us a great gift to share this same Word with a world that is, by its own admission, without adequate words.

This morning, I believe the Lord would have us to consider our words wisely and with care.  Let the preachers remember that we are likely to accomplish just as much for God with our public prayers as through our sermons.  Let the church remember that even when we do not know how to pray as we ought, that the Holy Spirit intercedes “with sighs too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26).  Let us all remember the prophets, psalms, and parables that have helped God’s people express the truth about their story in the light and lens of a coming Kingdom.

Learn the Word.  Love the Word.  Share the Word. 

Do this, because the ‘helpfulness of humanity’ is simply not enough.

Those of low estate are but a breath,
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath…
Once God has spoken;
twice I have heard this:
that power belongs to God,
and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.
(Ps. 62:9,11)
Grace to You,