WHERE IS THE HOPE?
TEXT: Lamentations 3:1-3, 19-24
Concentration camp survivor, author and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel has said, “Whatever you say about God, you should be able to say standing over a pit full of burning babies.” While the disaster that hit the Gulf coast this past week is not in the same category as the Holocaust, I think the warning about religious platitudes and easy answers is still well taken.
Whatever we say
about God, we must be able to say standing in the
No. For God’s sake, no. If our statements about God sound hollow in the face of this sort of death and devastation, then they are hollow and false anywhere. This, too, is the face of life on earth, and we have no business trivializing either God or human suffering.
Well, then, what
can we say? As people cry out to God
from inside the attics of flooded homes and from amidst the corpses on starving
streets, what can we say about God? We
do have an example of what others have said.
The prophet Jeremiah lived at the time of the destruction of
The destruction of
When the people of
exile was the greatest faith crisis in the ancient history of
But the storm
“I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long.” There is much more. In verses 10-12 he says about God, “He is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding; he led me off my way and tore me to pieces; he has made me desolate; he bent his bow and set me as a mark for his arrow.” I would not be surprised if many in the Gulf coast don’t feel that way at this very moment.
But then, down in verse 19, Jeremiah’s thoughts begin to turn and we have what I believe to be the most amazing statement of faith in all of Scripture: “The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.”
Even in the midst
of the worst disaster in
How does he do it? More to the point, how do we do it? How do we talk about God over a pit of burning babies or over a city of floating corpses? How do we get through even the much smaller ravages of life and still say anything remotely like, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.”?
One point is that such faith isn’t manufactured overnight. The time to cultivate strong faith is not when you’re clinging to life on your roof. The peaceful and happy times of life are the times to build up our faith levees to a point where they can withstand the storm. We do that to varying degrees, or we wouldn’t be sitting here in church this morning. But there are few of us wiling to spend the time and the resources to build a faith levee that can withstand a category 5 hurricane. It’s more than we want to pay, even though we know in the back of our minds it will cost much more should the storm actually come. We toss the dice and take the risk.
On CNN Friday
night, I saw a woman who was part of the
I’ll tell you,
hearing that snipers were shooting at helicopters and boats on rescue missions
was making me rethink my opposition to the death penalty. And here is someone, who was specifically
targeted by those thugs, calling for compassion for them. I don’t know who she is or what her
background is, but she has clearly had a lot of practice with faith, hope, and
compassion well before fighting for her life in
But where is the hope? Do we just put our hope in a God we can’t see, trusting without any evidence that something will change and our circumstances will improve? Maybe in the moments that we are pinned in a collapsed home by a fallen tree waiting for rescue we do that. But Jesus has pointed us to another way to recognize hope. Jesus has given the hope of the world into our hands…into the hands of those who would call themselves the Body of Christ.
Whatever you do to
the least of these, says Jesus in Matthew 25, you have done to me. And, by extension, Jesus is not only the one
who receives the aid. Jesus, through us,
is the one who provides it. We are
called to be the Body of Christ in the world.
We are called to bring the same hope and healing and rescue that Jesus
did. Where is the hope? It’s in that traumatized policewoman calling
for compassion for her persecutors. It’s
in the rescue workers pulling thousands of people off of rooftops and out of
homes by boat and helicopter, around the clock, even when many have lost homes
and loved ones themselves. Hope is in
the nurses and doctors in Charity hospital, giving each other IV fluids so that
they can remain conscious to do whatever they can to keep patients from
dying. This is the Body of Christ. This is the faithfulness of God and the mercy
of God at work in
Where is the
hope? We are the hope…the people of
We are the hope…those of us who go, those of us who give, those of us who pray. We are the hope because Jesus is the hope, and that hope is not shown in religious platitudes and easy answers. It is shown in no less than a broken body and shed blood. It is shown in a gruesome death on a cross and in the cry of even the Son of God saying, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me!”
“The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.” There is hope. It is Jesus. God in the flesh. It is you. Amen.
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