What a tough week for humanity this week.
The bad: Refugees on the move through Africa, Middle East, Asia. Shootings in a church in Charleston, SC. Greece on the verge of ... bankruptcy, or maybe not, the alternative could be a further enslavement to the dictates of the EU ... or Russia. Killings continue at the hands of ISIS. Syria is a bloody mess. Etc.
The mad: NRA line in the States that the killings in the church would have been limited if churchgoers had had concealed weapons. What the?!?!!? Note to the USA: the rest of us really do not understand you at times. Greece's economics and politics which got them to the current bad situation. Various politicians in Australasia (I'm thinking of you Tony/Bill/John/Murray/Nick) demonstrating less than competent handling of various matters.
Sanity: I haven't read Pope Francis' Laudato Si encyclical but it looks a corker. Can we learn the language of love in our relationship with the earth or will we continue harassing her? (May or may not comment further, but there is a LOT of comment on the internet, so I hardly think my twopence will add much to the reception).
Then there is this. I am reading Thomas C. Oden's A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir (Downers Grove: IVP, 2014). Oden is the Forrest Gump of twentieth and early twenty-first century theology. His academic life leads him to meet Bultmann, Barth and Benedict XVI. He becomes a liberal, attends WCC events, begins to change his mind and becomes a conservative, initially wowed by Augustine and Aquinas, then passionate about the patristics. He has been in thick with Packer, Neuhaus and Pannenburg.
Enough of the names. I want to share with you two items of sanity. Both from a visit Oden made to Cuba in 1993.
First, Oden describes a sermon he heard in a charismatic church. I think it is a sermon we need to hear again.
'The preaching was as impassioned as the praise. Its power was palpable as I heard the words telling all of us that it was about a war with Satan in the hearts of each one of us.
We were told that although the final outcome at the end of history is already known to the faithful, the struggle continues this side of the end. We face an adversary who presents himself as a friend, and we cannot afford to be naive about this combat.
As you are mocked by others who do not understand and will scold you, do not complain. Be ready to view sacrifice as a privilege of participation in the way of the cross. Rejection is to be expected, even within your own family.
You are called now to make a decision that could be the most important decision of your life: receive Jesus in your heart and trust him for the forgiveness of your sins.' (pp. 236-37)
Then Oden records a visit made to an aged Presbyterian theologian, Rene Castellano.
"The aging professor had been imprisoned early in the Cuban revolution and was now considered a saint among seminary students.
He told me in clear, moving English:
"God only illumines the next step, not long distances ahead. We would prefer God to illumine the way for a long distance ahead, but the flickering light of the Word shows only the next step.
God called Abram, 'Leave Ur. I will then tell you where you are going.'
To Paul the Spirit said, 'Go to Macedonia. I will tell you there what next.'
The risen Lord said to his disciples, 'Go to Galilee. You will find me there.'
It is humbling for the pilgrim to not know what is over the hill, to have no more foreknowledge than the next person. But this is a part of our spiritual growth: to take small steps without knowing what is ahead but trusting God to bring good out of evil. (pp. 237-38)
Both excerpts are fortifying in this tough week for our mad, bad world.