The First Sunday in Lent

Is it just me or are we just getting hit by one thing after another?” Charlotte and I were chatting. I had recently returned from visiting the police who were dealing with yet another troublesome domestic situation but at the same time they mentioned the invasion of Ukraine and whether Putin was omni-destructive? Local and global quickly enmesh. This week I have had discussions with the International Lutheran Council and begun them with the leaders of ILC European Lutheran churches about what we can do to help those in need. I look more often than I should at the news hoping for the cessation of violence. We all want international law and territorial sovereignty to be respected and no one to be hurt. On another scale all together, I am feeling a little sad that Australian cricketer Rod Marsh has died and then bowled over when Charlotte mentioned a few minutes earlier that Shane Warne had died suddenly. Charlotte and I are following the devastating floods in Australia. Very sad. And later I open an email newsletter from the Centre for Public Christianity and at the top of the screen in small print see ‘Anyone else feeling pummelled?’!

How are you?

Of course some perspective has to help. We are not in Ukraine. We are sitting safe and warm discussing the world around us and wishing so much of it isn’t as it is. We are not impotent either – everyone can do something in this global village because we are interconnected around the world as never before. And so we can help as per our circumstances – and in our liberal democratic society we can also make our views known to our elected representatives. That’s how it is for all citizens in the UK.

Children may wonder what the world is becoming and be fearful. So might adults. But the older we are the more experience we have that dark nights do end in a dawn. The war comes to an end. Worldly justice and repairs begin. Babies are still born. It is just that we want this now! Yes, it is hard when today is not the day the bad thing ends.

Christians also bring the perspective – and let’s be honest, this is also hard for many who are troubled by God’s apparent absence and non involvement – from the first century onwards that no matter how destructive the world is of itself, how much pain it inflicts on itself, and how often injustice and corruption seem to win, that God is not absent or uninvolved in this world. Yes, we and the psalmist (eg. Psalm 82) can cry, ‘How long, Lord?’. The cry of faith, however, is not based on the answer happening before our eyes. Of course it helps us when the answer does come before our eyes! (But how long is there peace before the next invasion comes? Sorry to be an historian here.) Should we not see the answer that doesn’t mean that God is inactive. Where do we then look for hope, for resilience, for encouragement when pummelled – when suffering? We look back to the cross! We go to the paradox that Jesus’ death for us gives us the reason not to despair, the reason to hope, the reason to trust God, and the reason to keep helping.

This perspective from a cross and empty tomb can seem so flimsy or stupid at times but Jesus always comes to us through words, water, bread and wine and helps us through whatever happens each day. This truth can shape how we think, feel, speak, and behave when the punches come. GS