The other day, about two weeks after the mass shootings in Orlando targeting LGBTQ people, a few days after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, and the day after the suicide bombing at Atarturk Airport, I was in a conversation with a friend who commented that, “the whole world is going to pot.” It is really hard not to come to that conclusion. We live in an astonishingly violent world where it takes a mass shooting or bombing with many victims to get our attention, and where the daily reporting of gun homicides or suicides doesn’t even register. We live in a world of great political upheaval, with the breakup of the European Union underway and a restless and angry electorate in the United States. There is a pain and anger over economic inequality in western countries which has led to extreme polarization, political instability, and uncertainty. The extreme instability in the Middle East has led to a massive refugee crisis and an increase in terrorism. Anxiety is rampant. The old rules no longer apply. It is pretty easy to look around the world and think we are going to hell in a handbasket—and to wonder just where exactly God is in all of this.
This summer a group of St. Peter’s folks are reading through the entire Bible. As of this writing we are a little more than a third of the way through the Hebrew Scriptures. One of the consistent reactions to the text is horror/disgust/distress over the violence reflected in the stories. And some of them are pretty graphic and disturbing. And yet in many ways they are a pretty accurate reflection of where we find ourselves now. And, sadly, where humans have found themselves for eons. The actors in the story change, but a lot of the script remains the same. And, as hard as it may be to see in any given snapshot in history, the constant in the Bible story, in the story of life, is the presence of God. Woven through Scripture is the story of the God who created out of love, whose heart breaks when humans abuse and harm each other and creation, and who consistently finds ways to reach us and draw us back to God. The great narrative of the Bible is the God who creates out of nothing and who makes broken things new. I am aware how Pollyannaish this may sound in a world that feels quite broken, and yet, at heart, I trust that this world in all its brokenness is still in God’s care and that God is very much present in our current world story.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls creation “the God project”. And Scripture indicates that this project will one day come to a close. When that is no one knows. It could be tomorrow, in a thousand years, or millions of years from now. And Scripture is also clear that whenever it ends, its end will be in God—that the universe will find its end right back in the heart of the God who created it in the first place.
In the meantime, we are called as Christians to be people who embrace and enter into this world with all its beauty, ugliness, joy, sorrow, pain, and love. We are called to treasure the gift that is life and respect that same gift given to all others. We are called to work for justice and for the dignity of all people. That work takes different forms, as each of us has been given different gifts. For some of us at St. Peter’s it is calling our representatives on a weekly basis and urging them to pass laws protecting people from assault weapons. For some it is working with POWER to bring equality and dignity to our educational system. For some it is working to resettle refugees from nations torn apart by war. For some it is working to feed our neighbors who are hungry. For some it is taking a public stand of solidarity with our Muslim friends and neighbors or LGBTQ people—recognizing and naming them as God’s beloved. It is true that no one of us can change the world. And it is also true that each of us can use our gifts and talents to serve and support the God project.
In this season of anxiety my prayer for each of us is that we know as surely as our next breath that God loves us, and that God loves the world. May we come together as a community to be fed and nurtured by the Body and Blood of Christ and by the presence and support of each other. May we be the hands and heart of God in the ways we can. And may we trust that in the end, love wins.