It’s me, your servant Jealaine. I am writing you a letter, God, because I figure you’re really busy with a lot of prayers right now. I don’t know that you will ever get this, but I needed a way to express myself, God and I figured a letter was just as good of a way as any. Dear God. That’s about all I can say right now. Dear God. Sometimes I think you like to make my job more difficult. People come to your house of worship week after week and they look to me to bring them the good news of Jesus who was crucified and resurrected for them. They look to me to tell them that even in times of darkness, you will be with us. Your people look to me hoping that I can assure them that everything will be okay, even if I don’t know for sure that it will be. But this week, God, it seems as if this is impossible. Dear God.
See, I had this pretty okay sermon about 80% written. You know my struggle. This was a tough text this week. Apocalyptic stories aren’t always feel good. And so I prayed that my fingers would move quickly across the keyboard. I prayed that the words you wanted me to share would come with ease. I prayed that whatever words were chosen that your message of love and forgiveness would be heard louder than anything else. I reached an impasse on Friday afternoon. It had been a long week, as you know God, with my stomach acting up again, making visits, and sharing holy moments with your people. I shut my computer, confident that you would send your Holy Spirit and the words to finish my sermon would come. Dear God, that didn’t happen.
Instead, Paris happened, God, as you know. Paris. The city that holds so much meaning for me and Chris. It was here we fell deeper in love. We ate the best nachos of our life at the Indian Cafe. We listened to an organ recital in the Notre Dame (don’t remind me, God, I know I dozed off…I was tired). We walked, hand in hand, Chris and I did, in front of the large music hall. We bought art from street vendors. We got swept up in all that Paris has to offer. And then, when our sunset cruise on the River Seine was done, we took the elevator up to the highest deck on the Eiffel Tower. And it was there that we became engaged. And we loved each other, and Paris, and it felt like, in that moment, that Paris loved us back, dear God.
I don’t blame you, God. Evil is what it is. Evil is a very present force in our lives. We all deal with evil in one way or another. Paris is just dealing with it on a very large scale. But that’s not all, is it, dear God? Japan experienced an earthquake; in Baghdad there was a funeral that was bombed; Beirut had a suicide bomber; and an earthquake in Mexico. 115,200 souls: all your beautiful creation, died in 24 hours. Forgive me, dear God, for not wanting to pray. Forgive me, dear God, for thinking that prayers sound really hollow right now. Forgive me, dear God, because of the amount of hate I have in my own heart for what is happening in this world. And forgive me, dear God, for thinking that it is all someone else’s problem and I don’t have the solution and can’t help. Dear God.
Dear God, my heart breaks. I went to a presentation at Northeast on Veteran’s Day, God. I heard a little girl ask the soldier “did you ever have to fight ISIS?” And it wasn’t my Ellen asking the question, dear God, but it might as well have been. No child should know about ISIS. No child should know that it is a real threat. No child should have to worry about something like that, but our children do, dear God, and we don’t know what to do.
How many more times will this be a headline in our nightly news stories? Dear God, forbid it from ever becoming the second, third, or fourth story. Forbid it from happening and us never hearing about it at all. Our world is broken, dear God. A broken place filled with broken people and after the past few days, broken hearts. And more times than not, dear God, people want to blame you. People want to blame those who we are scared of. We want to blame those who don’t look like us, talk like us, think like us, or even, dear God, we want to blame those who call on Allah as a way of calling on you. Soften our hearts, dear God. Xenophobia looks good on noone.
We do what we’re taught, dear God, and turn to you in prayer and read your holy Word looking for answers. “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.” This is what you have told us just today in Mark 13. And, honestly, dear God, I’m scared. If this is just the beginning, if the end is still to come, what else will happen? Never did we think that Christ coming again would look like this. Even now, dear God, your people are looking at me, hoping that I will have an answer, I will have words of wisdom and comfort, that I will assure them it’s okay. And I’ve got nothing.
Where is the good news? We could point to the stories of the hundreds of survivors but that’s just insinuating that you were only with certain people. We could point to the millions of people that turned to you in prayer; but again, what are we saying about You and our faith? Are we saying that in order to get people to turn to you, You create catastrophes? That’s not good news. So where, dear God, is the good news? The good news, I suppose, is that these forces of evil will be crushed. They will come toppling down like large buildings. They will be terminated under the forces of justice and your reign. Those who engage in evil, no matter what that may look like, will have to answer to you, dear God.
And I suppose the good news is this: you’re still here, dear God. We rest in the promise that you showed up here today and sent your spirit on this place and will go with us as we part from here. You are with those in hospital beds in Clinton, in New York, in Japan, and in Paris. You are with those who are being persecuted in Columbia Missouri, Baltimore, Chicago, Syria, and Palestine. You are with those who cry to you out of hunger, loneliness, depression, agony, and pain. You are with those who cry for death to come and with those who beg for death to stay away. And, in this meal, in our song, in our light and in our dark, you’re still here. A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. Make it be so. Dear God, make it be so.