Maybe it always has been.
Today, I am feeling it acutely.
It’s still too early to know the details of the shooting in San Bernadino, California, but the news outlets are calling it a mass shooting.
These days in Chicago have been tense. The video of the shooting of Laquan McDonald has been public for a week, and it still haunts me. Every day something else dribbles out that ramps up the righteous outrage. Today it was the news that another video has been suppressed, a video of yet another young black man being shot as he’s moving away from police. Another case in which damages were paid, charges were not brought, and the offending police officer is still on the job, over 400 days after the incident.
Arrests were made in Belgium, men allegedly connected to the terrorist incidents in Paris a few short weeks ago.
Since 2011, some estimate that a quarter of a million Syrians have died in the civil war; that’s a bit more than 1% of the 2011 population of 23 million. Close to 12 million — that’s 50% — have been forced from their homes, and more than 4 million have fled.
The fabric is fraying.
Most disheartening to me is the way too many of our national leaders advocate the kind of action that has gotten us here — bombs, boots on the ground, no fly zones, suspicion of the stranger, close our gates, prop up the fiction of our security, change the subject.
The picture looks awful lot like the picture painted in our sanctuary on Sunday morning as the preacher read the gospel lesson from Luke.
Then there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars; and there will be anguish in the earth month nations bewildered buy the roaring sea and waves. People will faint from fear and the expectation of things that are coming in the world because celestial powers will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near.
Though I don’t expect to see the Son of Man coming on the clouds, I feel the apocalyptic character of these times.
What would it mean for Christ to come in the midst of this mess?
The truth is that he does. The One who came to this mess centuries ago comes again now in the midst of our own mess. He still comes the same way, with the power of his gentle love. He walked among us, healed our diseases, calmed our fears, and rode into the Holy City as a king, though his noble steed was an ass and his eventual crown was woven of thorns. When we lift up our heads, we see his crucified body, broken so that we and this messed up world might be made whole again.
When that One who came as God among us spoke of apocalyptic times, he said — quite curiously, it seems to me — that in the midst of the turmoil, the preferred posture is not hunkering down or cowering in the corner. The preferred posture is to be standing, head lifted up. That’s a posture of confidence and action. It’s a posture of defiance in the face of evil and fear.
It’s the posture of those who know they don’t have to save the world; rather they are the ones who get to do God’s work of healing this broken world.
So, stand up.
Lift up your head.
Be open and vulnerable and generous.
Work with joy in your heart.
Refuse to close yourself off to other people.
Refuse fear and violence.
And live with the hopeful expectation that together, we can actually address humanity’s big challenges. Standing together with our heads lifted up.
I wrote this because I need to read it.