Wednesday, November 20, 2019

“Get out of Jail, Free”

What a passage! The Gospel reading for today makes somewhat depressing reading (Luke 21:5-19). 0f course, I doubt that was the author’s intent. I think it was written to inspire and help a people under persecution. The list of what was to be endured is quite horrendous — wars, insurrections, earthquakes, famines, plagues and, on a more personal level, being arrested, persecuted, betrayed, hated and death. Quite a list! 

Yet, the message of the text is it will all ultimately be worth it.  Hopefully, this was to bring comfort to the early followers of the newly emerging Christianity.

When I read the list of horrors, I realized that it contained nothing new. If one reads the Old Testament, or studies ancient and modern history or even reads a newspaper or online news report, all the same horrors are happening today and have happened in the past. The list in the Gospel of Luke simply reflects the way of the natural world and the inability of humanity to live peacefully with all. 

So, as I shake this passage — looking for a blessing — I started to reflect on the way contemporary Christianity has viewed suffering and hardship. It occupied most of my time pondering this text.

I wondered:
Has modern thinking led to the idea that because a person embraces Christianity, they should have some special protection? Is Christianity viewed as a monopoly game, “Get out of Jail, Free” card?  Sadly, I sometimes think it is. 

Please, don’t read this as me saying that it is not worth praying for those in hard circumstance — of course, it always, always is worth praying. I will always pray for those in need.

I just don’t think that playing the Christianity “Get out of Jail, Free” card will exempt anyone from bad things happening. Like the rest of humanity those who embrace the Christian religion get sick, they get betrayed, they get caught up in wars, they experience floods, fires and earthquakes. I have experienced some hard times, as I’m sure almost everyone else has. The message of the text to early Christians is that their beliefs do not make them exempt from any of these things. I think it is a message to heed for contemporary times.

So where is the blessing? I found it in one word — wisdom (15). One can’t avoid wars, insurrections, earthquakes, famines, plagues, being arrested, persecuted, betrayed, hated and death. (Hopefully, not all experienced by the same person for which I am very grateful and thankful) Yet, in the face of sufferings there can be wisdom. 

Wisdom in words to be spoken or, in our world of social media perhapss words not spoken. Wisdom that will bring endurance as hard things are embraced. 

Rensho posted to the community’s email list this week. I was impressed by his closing phrase which I mused on along with today’s reading. Rensho wrote, “We have many profoundly wise women in the Lindisfarne Community, for which I am exceptionally grateful.”

Today, I want to extend that from “women” to “people”. People full of wisdom to know how to handle those times when suffering bursts, often unexpectedly, into their lives. 

To close, I want to join Rensho and say, “We have many profoundly wise people in the Lindisfarne Community, for which I am exceptionally grateful.