Saturday evening, just a few hundred yards from where I pastor, the sister of one of students in our youth ministry was shot as part of a shooting spree where eight people were shot. Two continue to fight for their lives and six were killed in the shootings.
What do I write about all that is in my heart about this? How do I take what doesn’t really have words and give it voice?
It would be easy to turn this into an opportunity to talk about guns; or to talk about our violence culture; or to make this into some sort of political stump to stand on. But this post won’t be about that. And so if you have an urging within you to say something political, I want to ask you to hold it in. At least for just a little bit?
Political agendas around gun control and a violence culture cheapen, and even belittle, the grief of families and the questions a tragedy such as this bring to the surface.
As a community we are asking the deeper questions – and doubt. Questions that begin with “why.” Why did this have to happen? Where is God in the midst of this? How does a good and loving God allow such things to happen? Why did a father and son have to die? Why were four women, friend, killed for apparently no reason?
These are the questions that need to be asked by the community at this time. These are good, hard questions that get at the core of faith and if it is even worth having faith. Yes, you read that right. I think it is a good thing to even wrestle with if it is worth having faith. (I think I just felt some of your anxiety go up didn’t I?). Unless we get to the root of that question, and if we go to quickly to platitudes, I am not sure we really have faith or if it is a deep faith…?
It’s a question even as much as it is a statement.
I wonder if we can consider for a moment that even Jesus had questions. Deep and difficult questions. Addressed to God the Father.
In Matthew (one of my 4 favorite Gospel accounts) Jesus begins to ask his Father if he has to suffer in the way he knows is coming. Twice in chapter 26 Jesus asks if the “cup” of his suffering might be taken away. The first time is recorded like this, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” Troubled and sorrowful, Jesus asks to not have to go through suffering. In Luke 22 it is recorded that Jesus’ anguish is so deep that his sweat was like drops of blood.
If Jesus is able to question God in such a troubling way, why don’t we? I think it is because doubt and questions make most of us uncomfortable most of the time. We want things tidy. We want simple answers to make sense of our world.
But simple answers elude. Especially now. Especially here.
Let’s go even further. Jesus’ last words on the cross are also a question. Directed at God. Full of suffering, pain and anguish, in Matthew 27 Jesus cries out loudly, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The last words of the pre-Easter Jesus is the question “why” cried out to God. And there is no resolution for Jesus before his death. He dies on the cross with those words still hanging in the air. And unlike at Jesus’ baptism, we are left without a response from Heaven…
I want to invite you to let the question hang there. Why God? Why did six people have to die from a random act of violence on Saturday? Why did it have to happen here, now? Why?
Jesus’ question hung in the air.
And it was in the emptiness of the question that the resurrection took place. It was in the midst of the fear and doubt and hiding of the disciples that God the Father then stepped in.
The resurrection didn’t take place at the Triumphal entry, when it was cool to hang with cat who healed people and stood against the religious leaders of the day.
The resurrection didn’t happen when life was good.
The resurrection took place.
It took place in the midst of deep questions, fear and sadness…
Kalamazoo, let your questions sit out in the open. Ask them. Keep asking them. Jesus loves you.