Where Is God?

Ellie Wiesel’s book, “Night” describes the execution of a young boy in the midst of the horrors of a Nazi Concentration Camp. Wiesel writes, “One day when we came back from work, we saw three gallows rearing up in the assembly place, three black crows. Roll call, SS all round us, machine guns trained: the traditional ceremony. Three victims in chains and one of them, the little servant, the sad-eyed angel. The three victims mounted together onto the chairs. Three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses. “Long live liberty!” cried the two adults. But the child was silent.”

“Where is God? Where is God?” someone behind me asked. At a sign from the head of the camp, the three chairs tipped over. There was total silence throughout the camp. On the horizon, the sun was setting.” Wiesel describes how the two adults die quickly, but the boy is so light that he struggles for half an hour, dying in front of the rest of the camp. Behind him, Wiesel hears the same man ask, “Where is God now?” Then Wiesel writes, “And I heard a voice within me answer him: ‘Where is God?’. Here is God . . . God is hanging on the gallows.”

There are no adequate answers for the “why” of this kind of suffering and evil. There are no easy answers to rise of Islamic extremism leading to the slaughter of Christian students in a university in Garissa, Keyna, or the rampage of ISIS with its horrors left in its path. There are no easy answers for the suffering of cancer, or tornadoes which roll over a city. But the “Where is God” in the midst of suffering we do know. God has chosen to live among us, sharing in our daily journey, walking with us day by day. The mystery of suffering remains. Some day we will understand what we cannot now. Till then we have this hope given to us in Jesus Christ.

On Sunday we celebrated Easter, that moment when for all time God overcame the power of death. We have a risen Savior who lives among us. Through the centuries men and women, young and old have testified to the presence of the Living Lord in their lives. They tell of a grace which has been sufficient, for each need. People of faith have lived difficult lives courageously, vibrantly, even victoriously, for they knew they were never alone. However many times they were knocked down, God would be there to raise them above the place they fell. Christ offers this same gift today,coming as a friend wherever, whenever hearts are open to receive the gift.

We are an Easter people, confident that God can turn a life around . . . Certain that death and sin are overcome. We know that God who loves us, and has come in Jesus Christ, will have the last word. We are an Easter people, people of hope. We are followers of a risen Lord.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”  Romans 15:13

Hunger at the Dollar Store

I met a man yesterday who was asking for food. He said he was hungry. The more I talked to him, the more I realized the challenges he faces daily. His speech was garbled, with more words I didn’t understand than did. Giving him the encouragement that there are lots of jobs in our area right now, meant nothing. I wondered what kind of job he could find or if he had an advocate working with him. I didn’t understand his answer when I twice asked where he was living. I couldn’t figure out how he found himself in front of a Dollar store looking for food.

What was obvious after my encounter, was how much I take for granted in life. The ability to speak, to think clearly, to communicate to another all are gifts we pay no attention to until a devastating illness or injury takes them away. I have been thinking of this man often in the hours since I met him. Where does he live? Who feels a sense of responsibility for him? Is there anyone in his life he can depend on? Who cares about him? Had he slipped away from a group home? Was he lost? Is he homeless.

I’m reminded that Jesus has a heart for people who live on the underside of life. He asks his followers to do the same. Today is Good Friday. A day to remember, not only Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, but also the words he lived by. For it was Jesus who told us “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40 NIVUK

On the Other Side of Good Friday

“No Name” is what the woman called herself. She was in a locked ward of a psychiatric unit in a hospital, wearing a straitjacket. She was there because she had tried to harm her father after years of suffering from abuse . . . she was to say, “I am beyond the state of hope. I have no hope.” Once she wrote, “No name, no place, no love, no hope.” (I heard the story of “”No Name” from a professor who had met her.)

Hopelessness and its pain are not unique to our generation. The scriptures reveal the pain of the faithful who have gone before us. “My eyes stream with unceasing tears and refuse all comfort” wrote Jeremiah. (Lamentations 3:49 REB). The Psalmist would say, “I sink in muddy depths where there is no foothold; I have come into deep water and the flood sweeps me away. I am exhausted with crying, my throat is sore. (Psalms 69:2-3 REB)

The writers of scripture were no strangers to pain, suffering or it’s resulting hopelessness. Yet, they were confident of God’s continuing presence in their lives. They recognized a presence that lifted them from their despair. The 27th Psalm speaks to that hope. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? . . God will hide me and shelter me in the day of trouble; . . though my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will take me up. . . . I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living . . . be strong and let your heart take courage.” To those burdened with shame the 103rd Psalm promises, “As far as the east is from the west, so far God removes our transgressions from us.”

We are a resurrection people. Far from hopelessness we are gifted with the knowledge that God is one who brings life out of death, turns despair and hopelessness into avenues of new life, and makes our darkness become as day. Countless people, through the ages have discovered God’s new life surrounding them. Among them are people like myself . . . who having lived through the darkness, discovered God’s resurrection living.

Soon we will celebrate Holy Week where once more we journey from triumphant through fear, despair and death . . . only to be surprised that after Good Friday’s pain, comes Easter’s joy. On the other side of our journey through the Good Friday’s of life . . . Easter and resurrection wait.