Over the last couple of days we have been devastated yet again by the horrors of violence as we heard about the shooting at Virginia Tech University. The rhythm of violent death is one that cuts across all our lives like a bolt of lightning. The shockwaves reverberate through our society raising important questions for all of us. As I listened to the reports and the responses to this horrible event I was taken back to our sermon on Sunday in which the question “Does God Cause Evil?” was raised. I do not believe God causes evil but I do believe that the goodness of God and the love of God can shine through every evil event that occurs in our world. Often we equate pain with evil and flee from any situation, thought or emotion that is traumatic. Yet pain is a very necessary part of our lives. It protects us from injury when we hit ourselves and from burning when we get too close to the fire.
As I contemplate this horrible event I cannot get away from the fact that Jesus was recognized by his scars and his suffering. We serve a scarred and crucified God whose very pain has brought us salvation. Without God’s suffering, without God’s scars we could not be made whole. Part of the message of Easter (and we are still in the Easter season) is that through Christ the worst experiences can be transformed into the best of God’s presence.
As I think about this my thoughts go back to the shooting of Amish schoolgirls in Pennsylvannia last October. The Amish community forgave the killer and reached out to the widow to offer her comfort and solace. Incredible and only possible because of the love of God that resides so powerfully in their community.
We all have the choice to respond to the brutalities of our world with despair, anger and bitterness or with hope, love and compassion. If we respond in anger and bitterness the violence and atrocities only seem to grow and multiply. If we respond in love and with compassion God’s presence is able to shine through and transform the horrors into hope. This does not belittle the horror of atrocities such as this but it does make us aware that our God, who is scarred and disfigured by all our sins, our God who suffers with us in the midst of pain, will one day make all things new.
As Christians we look forward to the advent of a new heaven and a new earth in which all suffering and pain and death will be done away with. At the centre of our faith is the hope that through Christ all that is distorted by evil can be transformed into the goodness and glory of God.
Several years ago I came across this poem by Michael Leunig It seems very appropriate for today.
There are only two feelings
Love and fear
There are only two languages
Love and fear
There are only two activities
Love and fear
There are only two motives, two procedures, two frameworks, two results
Love and fear, love and fear
In meditating on this prayer I wrote the following reflections which are based on 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love because perfect love casts out fear.”
Fear is of this world, love is from God
Fear closes us in, love opens us up
Fear builds walls, love constructs bridges
With fear nothing is possible, with love all things are possible
Fear destroys, love creates
Fear kills, love gives life
God may we live by the love that flows from your spirit, the love that casts out fear and evil. May we reach out with care and compassion to all those who are hurting and in need. May we drive out the world’s fear with your perfect love. AMen