Friday, June 09, 2006

If not me . . .

Let's see:

- the hurricane season has started and there are
neighborhoods in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi,
and Alabama which are still littered with debris
from storms from as long ago as two years;
- thousands have lost their lives, their loved ones,
their homes, their livelihoods from the earthquake
in Indonesia;
- two top executives of Enron have been convicted
for their roles in the fall of that corporation;
- former Vice-President Al Gore has released a
movie which provides a close-up look at the
consequences of global warming;
- 17 people have been arrested for possible
terrorism activities in Canada, a country which
prides itself on diversity and tolerance;
- and this year marks the 25th 'anniversary' of
the discovery of the AIDS virus.

Woe is us! Woe is me! We are a people who look around and see great grief, daunting devastation,unbelievable suffering. And when we go to the
sanctuaries of God, we hear God crying out, "who can I send? Who will go?"

Send me? "I don't think so" is the response many of us who follow Jesus seem to say. Call it compassion fatigue, call it xenophobia, call it 'focusing on our own before we reach out to others,' a lot of people are talking as if we just cannot do it any more, we just are not able to serve others, we just don't have the time or energy or resources to respond to God's call.

But what makes us so different from all the other generations which preceded us? What gives us some sort of exemption, some 'free pass' from having to respond with love, with hope, with reconciliation to a world that struggles to find its way? Every generation has faced tragedy, every generation has dealt with some sort of major crisis, every generation has had to decide HOW it would respond, not if it would.

On a cold, gray, grief-filled November Friday afternoon, I walked with my family down to our Presbyterian church to hear what the preacher had to say to us, to hear what comfort the Word would offer, to hear what God might say to those of us numbed by the news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

And of all the passages he might have chosen, the preacher read from Isaiah 6, "In the year when King Uzziah died . . ."

It is in the years in which the king dies or the president's life is cut short that we see God high and lifted up before us, reminding us of who creates us and calls us.

It is in the years when the foundations of the world shake from the armies at war that the heavenly choirs sing of the One whose glorious peace waits to fill our lives.

It is in the years when people's ears are filled with the false promises of the politicians and the empty rhetoric of anger and hatred, that God reaches out to touch our lips so we can speak the Good news of hope, of grace, of steadfast love for all people.

It is in the years when we seem most broken that God's healing power is poured out upon us; it is in the years when we seem most helpless, that the Spirit is poured out upon us so we can help others; it is in the years when despair threatens to fill every crevice of our souls and our hearts shatter from the suffering we see before us that God makes Jesus most present in the world - through us!

It is in these years, and every year, and this year that God most needs us to minister to the world. It is in these years, and every year, and this year that God cries out, in pain and anguish, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"

Then I said . . .

(c) 2006 Thom M. Shuman

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