I'm fortunate to have travelled a fair bit in different parts of the world. One thing I've noticed is that Christians in other countries -- often in very difficult situations -- do not ask for the challenge or pain to be removed. Instead they pray, "God, give me strength to bear this trial."
I hasten to add that I am not, for a moment, questioning the sincerity of anyone's prayers. I've stood in too many hospital rooms and beside too many death beds for that! I just wonder. is it just a First World challenge? When life is good and we are living the dream, is it easy to imagine that we're responsible for all the good stuff? After all, isn't that sort of individuality what our society preaches, pushes, and sells. It's easy to believe that when life is good, but when the world rolls over on someone who, just last week was sitting on top of it, where do we turn? Using a biblical phrase, where shall we go for the word of life?
Over the last couple of years it appears that hatred, bigotry and close-mindedness of a number of varieties have received a new legitimacy. I'm not convinced they're newly formed, but different forces have allowed them to come into the light of day. There have been important folk willing to articulate them in the brashest of ways. I don't think Donald Trump created the wave that he rode to power any more than those candidates for leadership in Canada's conservative party who are channeling "extreme vetting" or "Canadian values" politics created those. The spokespeople for Brexit didn't create the conditions. In each case, however, for whatever reason, they detected and vocalized -- and therefore legitimated views that were often held quietly and privately.
There have been some terrible tragedies: violence against Black Christians at Mother Emmanuel Church; against LGBTQ in Orlando; against Moslems in Quebec -- to name but a few. In each case it has been intriguing to watch the mainstream media grapple with the willingness of some to forgive those who murdered their loved ones out of fear, racism or bigotry. Most reporters didn't get it. They couldn't, because that doesn't resonate with our prayers of privilege.
In this week after Easter, I'm reminded that the first Christians, and many in suffering communities today, did not follow a Jesus who overthrew Rome or rewarded his followers with pomp and wealth. They followed and still follow a Jesus who was betrayed, falsely convicted, and judicially lynched. The very flesh of God who gives a presence that no easy word or superficial promise can match. Faith in one who was not rescued from the cross but who changed the world through the cross can lead us, ever so slowly sometimes, to different prayers.
God's is the last word -- even when we'd rather not hear the words that come before it.
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