July 6, 2022
The war in Ukraine continues between two countries. The adversaries are defined: Russia against Ukraine. There are two armies with two separate command structures, two different seats of powers and at the top, two different presidents. Thousands have died. Millions have been displaced. Billions of dollars in damage has occurred.
On Monday, a lone gunman in his own army shot and killed 7 people at a parade and wounded many others just outside of Chicago. He wasn’t from another country and did not aspire to take over anything, from what we know. Frankly, we don’t know that much, other than another kid terrorized another community. Our enemies are not always at the gates, moving in columns or in ways that can be plotted on maps. Oftentimes they are in our schools, towns and even homes. Our communities are being linked by t-shirts and hats that read ________ Strong. Boston Strong, Oxford Strong, now Highland Park Strong. We never imagine that our town’s name will be on the merchandise, until it is. Are we really that strong or are we trying to project that?
When you compare the war in Ukraine to these random acts of terror by a lone gunman it really doesn’t seem to justify all the attention, does it? What are two armies with tens of thousands of soldiers compared to one young adult? What are sophisticated weapon systems, tanks, ships, drones, compared to a rifle? One could say, “Do the math. The chances of you or someone in your family being shot in a random act of violence in this country is statistically nil.” What is seven compared to 332 million? Sometimes, statistics cannot tell the story. Spock may say that fear is pointless, counter-productive, and illogical given the 0.000002108% chance (7 killed divided by 332,000,000 population of our country). But it doesn’t feel that way. We are more than stats.
These random acts of terror have become regular. The forest fires of these shootings leave a smoky haze of angst, fear and heart-ache that gets into our lungs, blocks the sun, and clouds our ability to see the future with hope. The smell of terror clings to our clothes and hangs heavy on our souls while weighing down our eyes. Homeschooling Co-ops are growing, not simply because parents are becoming increasingly concerned about what is being taught in public schools but, in some cases, as a reaction of fear, of not wanting my kid to be a victim of a shooting. In times like this, I realize the profound difference between faith and FAITH. A generic faith in faith, or faith in your strength, or faith in people pulling together, is not very robust. It is reactionary and emotional, but beyond that – what? Parents try to assure their children that they will be alright, but who can assure the parents of the same thing?
FAITH in God does not protect us from evil now. So, why trust in God? What good will that do if it cannot guarantee that my kids will come home from the parade, football game, or day at school? Good question. Let’s look exactly at what Jesus said. Did Jesus promise that if you only believed in him nothing bad would happen to you? No. In fact, he said, “In the world you will have tribulation.” You will have evil. You will have terror. You will have sorrow. You will have violence. So, now what? Hope for the best? Is that it? No. Jesus goes on, “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16.33) Oh yeah.
Fear will not last; Jesus will. Violence will not last; Jesus will. War will not last; Jesus will. Sickness, disease, accidents will not last; Jesus will. One day, death will not last; but Jesus will.
So, grieve if you must, and we must, but take heart. Grief will not have the last word.
Grace and peace,
Sunday’s text: 1 Samuel 19