When I lay my head on the pillow after a Sunday of preaching, my most common worries are these: Did I make it too easy? Did I wrap up the message too tight? Was there someone there whose life is falling apart that felt excluded from the good news?
Yesterday my sermon was full of good news. I preached on our image of God and how essential it is to know that God is with us, for us and ahead of us (with full credit and gratitude to Rob Bell’s new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God). I believe this is what allowed Jesus to go through what we will commemorate this upcoming Holy Week. I hope that the message gave space for others in their suffering to know God is with, for and ahead of them as well.
I hope, but then last night I listened to a woman describe sexualized torture in Syria and the conditions of refugee camps outside of Syria. I was reminded that 75,000 people have died during that conflict. And I felt foolish. Who was I to speak of such a loving God in the face of such tragedy?
Truth is, I’m not at all qualified. Yes, I’ve had my share of suffering but it is nothing in comparison to so much of the world. Knowing this, I borrow hope from those who have suffered: from the Syrian people who keep fighting for freedom, from the victims of horrific crimes who continue on, from the writings of people like Elie Wiesel, and from the journey of Jesus to the cross. And I pray that I and those journeying with Jesus this week will encounter the God who is with, for and ahead of us. I pray that encounter will be what we need to bring hope in our darkest moments and courage to act on behalf of others’ suffering.
If you want to listen to the sermon, it’s here.