Returning to the Lord in Times of Evil and Tragedy

unnamed.jpg

Hi Church,

Over the last few weeks, as we’ve journeyed through the book of Hosea, we’ve heard a consistent call to “return to the Lord.” This call will continue in the weeks to come. It’s a call to repentance and restored, right, worship of God as our Savior and Lord. Time and again Hosea implores his hearers giving the same call we will read this coming Sunday to “return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait for your God.”

The events of this past weekend, in Dayton and especially in El Paso, illustrate some of the ways we as a nation need to return to the Lord. The terrorism and tragedy of these events demonstrates the ways demonic ideologies and idols hold sway in our national life. Both the evils of white supremacy and the ways that violence and power are clung to are pernicious principalities in the United States. To the degree that we put our trust in our ethnic identity or in our capacity to hurt and kill we must return to the Lord. 

The hope and promise of the Gospel is that these powers do not have the last word. Even in the face of such grievous violence and suffering, the kingdom of heaven is stronger, stronger than the corrupt powers and principalities and their horrendous effects. God’s kingdom, announced and inaugurated in Jesus, is the true and enduring reality. The same Lord who inspires Hosea’s call to return has broken the hold of violence, sin, and idolatry at the cross, and exposed the powers of this world. It is this Lord, revealed in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, who calls us to return to Him. To return to the way of peace, the way of life, the way of the cross. 

The way He calls us to is difficult. It is counter-cultural. In the face of the tragedies of this weekend and the ingrained way of our nation it is difficult to believe that the way of selflessness, of the love of others and enemies, of humility and service is the way. But this is the way to which we as the church are called, and it is the way to truly live.  Even more, it is only through this way that we play our role and participate in God’s healing of the nations, including our own. I know that we long to live this good way for which we were made.

Over the past few days, since the shootings, I, like you, have had the opportunity to read many different takes on them and their significance. This one, written by an Anglican working in El Paso, is one of the best I’ve seen. This one from "Christianity Today" on white supremacy is wonderful and challenging. 

As I’ve prayerfully read these various perspectives I’ve heard God’s call to return to Him in prayer, offering prayers of lament over the suffering and the hold of the idols of racism and violence in our communities, prayers for those who are most acutely suffering in these specific tragedies and under the burden of these idols, the disenfranchised and vulnerable, and prayers of Jesus’ kingdom to more fully come here in the United States. I’ve also heard that call to return as a call to self-examination and repentance, to turn inward and examine my own heart and life, to consider where I might be “sowing the seeds of hatred”, to confess and receive the transformative grace of Jesus. Occasions such as these can always be an opportunity of repentance and restoration, for turning away from the idols that have occupied the center of our lives. 

Lastly, I’ve also experienced that call to return to God as a call to reach out. We will see this week that Hosea’s call to return is a call to hold fast to love and justice. Let us consider how the Holy Spirit might be inviting us to extend ourselves to others, especially those who are suffering or disenfranchised by these events, in Christ-like love and service. Part of that extension of ourselves may involve a naming of the ways death-dealing and anti-Gospel powers are at work in our nation and world. Like Hosea the people of God are called to see and name reality in the power of the Spirit. This is good work and part of bearing witness to God. Beyond that, just as Jesus has been sent to announce and demonstrate God’s goodness, grace and power, so is the church sent, that others might return and know God. One particular pastor that I know of invited his parishioners to consider who the people are that God might be calling them to reach out to and love redemptively in the wake of this weekend. What a wonderful way to turn what was evil toward God’s good purposes. How might the Lord be calling you to Himself and His way this week?

Finally, I know that the shooting in El Paso might be particularly disturbing for the Hispanic members of our community, considering the shooter’s stated motivations. Let’s keep them specifically in prayer, and if you’d like someone to talk and pray with please don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Returning with you,

Peter+ 

Peter CoelhoComment