We write these words just a few days after the earthquake in Haiti. The devastation is impossible to fully comprehend, and the extent of suffering to come is equally unfathomable.
At such times one wonders…why? There is no answer to that, of course, and if there was an answer, it would not be good enough, not nearly good enough. The truth is that nature is indifferent to us: regularly beautiful, sometimes terrible, but always indifferent.
The good news of the gospel is that God is not indifferent. The Christmas message is that the God who created all things becomes part of his creation and shares life as we know it. The Lenten story, which we are about to rehearse once more, tells how God’s own self experiences the suffering and sorrow that afflicts all of his creatures at one time or another. God is not indifferent to human suffering; in the cross of Christ we see that God shares it. Our faith is not a “pie in the sky,” naive affirmation that all is well; at a time like this, our faith gives us hope in the midst of tragedy because we trust that God is not indifferent to us.
Princeton Seminary student Amy Julia Becker tells the moving story of the death of her mother-in-law in her book, Penelope Ayers. In “First Things” (November 2009) she writes that “in the midst of Penny’s illness, I read that the word “hope” in Hebrew is similar to the word for spider’s silk. I also read that spider’s silk is stronger than steel, that researchers are hoping to use spider’s silk to make lightweight bulletproof vests. I’m not sure the Hebrew etymological connection was intentional, but it provided me with a helpful image: hope as a strand of spider’s silk. stretched tight between the pain of the present moment and the promise of a future reunion. Hope is the place between. It is remembering the pain of the cross and anticipating the reality of the resurrection. It is an awareness that the world is not yet what it should be, even as God is already at work. Hope is as strong as steel and as fragile as thread.”
This month we will share our prayers and our dollars with the people of Haiti. And we will continue to live the life of faith in our churches. We will worship; we will teach our children; we will care for hurting friends; we will reach out to those in need in our own community. We will begin the holy season of Lent. All these are linked by our “mission from God,” our common calling to be an outpost of hope in the world: hope fragile as thread, but strong as steel.
Grace and peace…and hope,
Greg and Kathy