I have just finished listening to two books of a trilogy by Ken Follett. The books are entitled, Edge of Eternity and Winter of the World. The stories trace the lives of several families in Russia, Germany, England and the United States during the Great War (World War I) and World War II. As I listened to the books, I was deeply troubled by the atrocities forced on the people of so many countries across Europe and in Southeast Asia, as well as the attempt to annihilate an entire people, the Jews. The sacrifice of thousands upon thousands of lives in the fight for freedom as told by Follett was overwhelming.
I think about all of this as I ponder the violence being wrought by ISIS in the Middle East and the response of Jordan in return. I ponder what is happening to the people of Ukraine and Russia. I am certain that the poorest of the poor, the elderly, the children, the disabled and the women are experiencing the worst of it all.
So, what are we to say about these things? It seems impossible that in today’s culture that people of differing opinions and political views cannot find a way to peaceably co-exists. Yet, that seems a far off dream.
Years ago, a mentor pastor gave me a book entitled, The Will of God, written by Leslie Weatherhead, an English Christian theologian in the liberal Protestant tradition who was noted for his preaching ministry at City Temple in London. Weatherhead’s book was based on five sermons given to his congregation near the end of World War II. I commend to you this book, as I believe Weatherhead does a great service to people of faith in offering several ideas of how we can continue to believe in God in the face of human evil seen in human violence and atrocities as well as with natural disasters.
Briefly, Weatherhead posited that God has set forth God’s intentional will in creation both then and now. He goes on to say that God’s intentional will is sometimes thwarted by natural disaster and most especially by human violence. This he calls God’s circumstantial will in which God’s love and grace, healing and hope can be seen even in the midst of atrocities and disasters. Weatherhead concludes by proclaiming that whether or not we see it come into existence in our lifetime, God’s will of a peaceful creation for all God’s people and for all of creation will ultimately come. He, of course, says much more than what I offer here.
I take hope from Weatherhead’s writing. I also know that as those who takes the name Christian, those who have chosen to follow in the way of Jesus, we are called, set apart, to be part and parcel of helping to bring God’s vision of a peaceful creation into reality. That doesn’t mean that we don’t cringe at the violence being done in God’s name around the world and across our own country. It doesn’t mean that we don’t grieve the lost lives and lost hopes of so many people.
So then, what are we do say about all of this? Perhaps, we can faithfully affirm that we will live our lives doing our part to bring peace to our corner of the world and beyond. Perhaps, we can faithfully affirm that we are not alone in this, that God’s ultimately will can and will be done on earth as it is in heaven. How do we know? Well, I think Jesus spoke to that truth saying, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I can live into that kind of hope. Perhaps, you can, too.
Holy One, in the darkest moment of our lives and our culture, help me ever to remember that you are with us, we are not alone. Amen.