God is Good?

Years ago, I had the opportunity to intern at Birmingham UMC in Birmingham, MI.  It was an incredible experience on many levels, filled with highs.  One of those “high” moments for me was getting to preach at the Sunday morning worship services.  I don’t think I had ever preached in front of that many people before nor in such an elaborate sanctuary.  I was a nervous wreck as I preached from Habakuk around the question: God is good, but what about those times when God is not?

This question is before me once again as I reflect on recent personal experiences, those of friends, and what is happening around the world – particularly in the Middle East.

Yesterday, I was led to Psalm 121.  It hit the spot at first, but as I continued chewing on the promises of the psalmist – “The LORD watches over you…the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.  The LORD will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life;” – I felt as though the words were dishonest, hollow, and inconsistent with Jesus’ messages to his disciples.

Dissonance grew between the psalmist and what I’m seeing and experiencing in the world around me.  Horrific tragedies abound are relentlessly communicated to us via the 24-hour news cycle.  So how do we reconcile the events of the world and the promises of this psalm?  I’m still not sure.

What these tragedies assure me of, however, is that this world is indeed fundamentally broken.  Things as they are, aren’t they way they should be.  And this reality reminds me of another Reality: that the God who came into the world as Jesus is the God who turns Dark Fridays into Easter Sundays.

Tragedy, injustice, brokenness, and sin nailed Jesus to the cross that fateful Friday so many years ago.  But even such an unconscionable act and death itself(!) could not stop this God from moving mightily in redemptive and resurrecting ways.

When the dissonance between the world as it is and the world as it should be rises to unbearable levels, “I lift my eyes unto the hills” and ask “where does my help come from?”  The psalmist reminds me: my help comes from the LORD.  The same LORD who took Jesus’ death and turned it into Easter Sunday.

And so I hope.  I hope that deliverance will come to those being mutilated and beheaded.  I hope that love will reign in hate-filled hearts.  I hope that my friends will be healed.  I hope that we are no longer afraid.  I hope.  I hope.  I hope…

I lift my eyes unto the hills.  For my help comes from the LORD – maker of heaven and earth.

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Monday Morning Memo

I am starting something new today: a Monday Morning Memo.  “Memo” doesn’t seem to be the right word, but it will do for now.  At the beginning of the year, I set some personal goals and writing more regularly was one of them.  Creating structure like writing on Monday mornings will help me, I hope, form this new habit.  Topics will vary in content and length, but they’ll be what I’m thinking about that particular Monday morning.  More likely than not, they will have a theological bent.  So here goes…something!

Today I am thinking a lot about friendship and the gift of community.

Last week was just what I needed: lots of time spent with lots of good friends.  Chili, cornbread, and pumpkin cupcakes with one.  Conversations over cups of coffee and Facetime reunions with others.  More chili with more friends followed by heart-to-heart sharings round a fire pit.  It was a wonderful week that arrived at just the right time.

Fall seems to invite such gatherings, especially here in the Midwest where we get to experience the fullness each season offers.  When the Autumn air begins to nuzzle its way in, fire pits, chili pots, cornbreads, and pumpkin-flavored sugary treats are quick to follow.  So too are gatherings with friends.  Something about the food and colder weather seems to draw us back together from summers spent out and about.

I am thankful for my friends.  I am thankful for community.

One of my “core beliefs” is that no one should go through life alone.  Put in the positive: everyone should have friends; everyone should have a community.

I believe this because I am a Christian.  I believe this because I believe in the God who is the “Blessed Trinity” – God “in three Persons” – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  God as such is inherently relational.  Who God is, is relationship.

The Story goes that this God created humanity in God’s own “image and likeness.”  And if God is indeed Relationship, then we too are creatures created for friendships and communities.

I trust that this is true.  And I feel that this is true.

Life is just better when lived with others.  Laughter is louder.  Joy is deeper.  Burdens are shared.  Loneliness and isolation abated.

I feel it gathered round fire pits and taste it in pumpkin cupcakes.  I feel it in the good times, and I feel it in the bad.  I carry with me lost friendships.  I feel the missing presence of my deceased grandfather.  I am a relational being.

No one should ever have to live life alone.  Everyone should have friends.  Everyone should have community.

An old icon, or depiction of God, created by Andrei Rublev shows the Blessed Trinity gathered round a four-sided table.  The open side is front and center.  The Divine Persons to the right and left are opened out to the viewer.  There is this sense, this feeling, this truth that God is inviting us to be part of the Divine Community.  It’s an invitation that is extended to us all: to risk relationship.

Something for me to continue thinking (and living) more deeply about…

Grace and peace,