Tag Archives: bad news

Is there hope during these dark days of Christmas 2016?

22 Dec

Image result for people walking in darkness

Just in the news on Monday 12/19/16:

  1. The Chinese Navy intercepts a US Navy underwater drone.
  2. A Turkish man assassinates a Russian Ambassador.
  3. A man drives a truck into a Berlin, Germany, Church Christmas market killing 12, injuring dozens more.
  4. The American Electoral College elects Donald Trump president, a candidate whose major proposals included building a wall to keep immigrants out of the USA, and deporting Muslim people from the USA.
  5. Lots of discussion about whether Russia interfered in our election process through hacking of emails.
  6. People fleeing the bombed-out Syrian city of Aleppo.

That was all on one day.  Geesh.  Kinda gives me the shakes just looking at it.

The other day I was driving my car down the road to the church as I always do, and it struck me how normal the drive was.  People in other cars passing me.  Houses.  Trees.  All very normal.  And then I thought, I wonder how life will change in these next four years with our new president.  Will driving down the road be just as normal as it is today?

That might sound like a ridiculous question.  But I wasn’t really thinking about the act of driving, or the technology of a car.  We know that car technology is changing, and in four years from now there will be different cars, with different technology.  Maybe there will be cars that drive themselves, or cars that talk to one another.  Maybe it will be a safer way to travel.  But that’s not what I was thinking about that day.

In my mind I was thinking about the world.  I was thinking about the news and how troubling it all is.  Any one of those news items I mentioned are serious and in bygone eras have been acts of war that led to devastating conflicts.

I think about the song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”  You know that song?  Here’s how it goes:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

You’d think the song was written for our time.  But it wasn’t.  The lyrics of the song are based on an old poem.  One of America’s greatest poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote the poem “Christmas Bells” on Christmas Day 1863.

Think with me about what was happening in our country in 1863.  The Civil War.  In March of that year Longfellow’s oldest son, joined the Union Army without his father’s blessing.  Longfellow found out in a letter.

Longfellow wrote the poem on Christmas Day just a month after getting the news that his son was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church in Virginia.  Two years before that, Longfellow had lost his beloved wife of 18 years when she was terribly burnt in a fire.  It was a dark Christmas day for him.

We might not be in Civil War, but the world feels very dark this Christmas Day, doesn’t it?  As we have been learning this past month studying Isaiah, the world was a dark place for the Judean Israelites during Isaiah’s day too.   Armies from all around were constantly threatening to invade them.  The world was dim.  In the next prophecy God talks to the people walking in darkness.

Into that dark world, both theirs and ours, God gives Isaiah a prophecy.  Join us this Sunday, Christmas Day at Faith Church, as we look at Isaiah 9:1-7.  Will we find light and hope to encourage us in the darkness?  I trust we will.  I know this.  We will learn the end of the song.  There are more verses…

Is there only bad news and a broken world?

3 Apr

broken worldHearing the bad news coming out of Kenya these past few days has been a sobering reality about our world.  I know that there is tragedy and evil like that pretty much every day of every week, but this one hit home because we have close friends who are missionaries in Kenya, and my son and I are preparing to join a team of 15 from Faith Church going to Kenya this summer.

I’ll admit, probably because of our unprecedented access to every part of the globe, I can get jaded about the bad news.  How many times can you get totally upset over a mass shooting before you start to get numb?  We call it growing a thick skin.

Some people, rightly though, say that we shouldn’t be surprised by the evil and tragedy out there in the world today.  They say that it is a fallen world, and that bad news is part and parcel of a fallen world. I tend to agree, but, man, can that come across callous.

I am paying closer attention to the news in Kenya, and I’m feeling it more emotionally because it is personal.  Thankfully my friends in Kenya live in a different part of the country and are safe.  But so many in Kenya are struggling today, so many are experiencing profound loss with this very bad news.

And that feels completely contradictory to the task I have in this blog post.  My aim is to introduce an Easter sermon.

I would much rather be introducing an Easter sermon after hearing wonderful news about how Christians in the world did something incredible because of the hope they have in Jesus.  Instead today we are hearing about Christians who were killed for being Christians.

I suspect that my consternation over this introduction is at least in part stemming from my vantage point of Christianity as the largest of the world religions.  But the original Easter story happened to a group of people that were the furthest thing a world religion.

Let me explain with a new word I learned this week: Triduum.  Ever heard that before?  It refers to the three days leading up to a feast, in this case Easter.  The Holy Triduum, or the three days leading up to Easter are Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.  As I was preparing for worship this week, it struck me how awful those three days must have been for those first followers of Jesus, and of course for Jesus too.

On Palm Sunday they are marching triumphantly into the city.  The crowds declare him King.  These are bold moves.  You don’t walk through the current king’s front door proclaiming that you are the new king, and you certainly don’t do it without a massive army.  Jesus came not riding on a warhorse, but on a peaceful donkey.

Who knows?  Maybe the Romans were laughing their heads off at that scene.  They probably didn’t feel threatened at all.  If they wanted to, they could have stopped the events of Palm Sunday immediately and ruthlessly.  Physically speaking they had no reason to be threatened by this supposed Jewish King.

Turns out it wasn’t the Romans, but the Jewish leaders who felt threatened.  They had been dogging Jesus for months and now things came to a head.  The joy and victory of Palm Sunday turned to a betrayal and arrest on the first day of the Triduum, Maundy Thursday.  Jesus’ disciple Peter whips out a sword to fight, thinking this is the moment. You gotta love Peter’s passion, making the first strike, cutting off a dude’s ear.  But when Jesus heals the guy, putting the ear back, you have to think that Peter was shell-shocked.

Hours later he denies Jesus three times.  All of Jesus’ 11 remaining inner circle run away, except John.  If Jesus was arrested, they were probably thinking, there could easily be a bounty on their heads too.

Jesus passes the night in a dungeon, and now we’re at day two of the Triduum, Good Friday.  He has been and still is being beaten repeatedly.  He is brought to trial on trumped up charges, and the politicians get involved.  They really don’t know what to do with him as he hasn’t actually done anything wrong, but the pesky Jewish leaders are calling for his death.  So the Roman leader Pilate gives Jesus another beating and sends him to be killed.

And they crucify him.

John alone, of all the disciples, and some of the women, are the only ones at the foot of the cross.  And Jesus dies.  Imagine that.  Three years of ministry.  In the toilet.  One of the Jewish establishment guys who is a secret follower of Jesus takes his body and buries it in a tomb.  He is given an honorable burial, but it sure seems like waste.  Could this one who was supposedly king material just be another in long line of failed upstart Jewish freedom fighters?

That takes us to the final day of the Triduum, Holy Saturday.  A day of waiting, confusion.  He had told them he would rise after three days.  I wonder what those disciples were thinking.  Did they have any idea what “rise after three days meant?”  I also wonder if they were ticked off at Peter.  I wonder if they even knew he had denied Jesus.  Did Peter tell them?  He wasn’t one to keep quiet.  I can hear them arguing, debating wondering what in the world they should do next.  Clearly they decided to stay in the city, maybe just because it was Passover and that’s  what you did.  Maybe they actually weren’t decided on what they should do.  Maybe they were too torn apart to know how to think.

Their world was broken.  The events of those three days had ripped it to shreds.  Our world can feel very broken like that.  Events of the past days leave us confused and frustrated, just like the disciples.

What do we do?

Is there no good news?

The Triduum will eventually finish.  And there will be a new day.  If you’re not part of church, we’d love for you to be our guest at Faith Church on that new day, this Sunday, Easter, as we search for some good news.