It Is Good Here, Let Us Make Dwellings
Things have changed for all of us since the beginning of the global pandemic that has now passed its two-year anniversary, and churches have been affected as much or more than most organizations.
And pastors, and church leaders along with them.
I have had more than a few conversations over the last several months that have left me feeling a bit defeated as a pastor, but I fully expected to have most of them, to be honest.
With all of the dramatic shifts that have occurred in our society and our communities of faith, I knew there would be some hard conversations to follow.
But the conversations that have really gotten to me have centered around a desire by some to ignore the global pandemic that we've endured for the past two years---to just pretend that everything is fine, and to "just move on."
Listen, I am pretty tired of wearing masks. I'm also tired of feeling anxious and scared. I'm tired of a lot of things that have to do with this damnable pandemic, but I'm also aware that it's taken a toll not only on me but on just about everyone else.
I'm eager to fill our sanctuary up once again with excited attendees. I'm looking forward to the day when it's safe to not have to wear masks to church or to be afraid to hug our friends.
But at this moment I am reflecting on something that I recently read from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Meditations On The Cross. Bonhoeffer decried church communities that refused to acknowledge suffering, even their own.
"We want Jesus as the visibly resurrected one, as the splendid, transfigured Jesus. We want his visible power and glory, and we no longer want to return to the cross, to believing against all appearances, to suffering in faith... it is good here... let us make dwellings."
Bonhoeffer's words are difficult for us to hear when we are going through challenging times. None of us enjoy trials and tribulations, and we typically want to find our way through them as quickly as possible.
But as Bonhoeffer posits, the need to move quickly to the resurrected Jesus, the triumphant Jesus in "power and glory," is a temptation that we need to avoid for our own good.
We can't be afraid to let suffering do its work, which is to instruct us, strengthen us, lead us to wisdom, grant us lessons in life that can be found nowhere else.
To use Bonhoeffer's imagery, if we gloss over the cross, we miss out on the moment when God suffered, doubted, and died.
We miss out on embracing the ultimate truth of the Cross, which is that it was necessary in order to shift the world forward into the radical newness of Resurrection.
There is no empty tomb without the cross, in other words. Jesus hung upon the Cross not as an example of God's anger, bloodlust, or otherness, but as the ultimate example of just how far God is willing to go to show God's love for all of Creation, including you and me.
Through Jesus, God took on the worst the world had to offer, and it did not overcome him in the end. But to simply skip to the end does a disservice to the beauty of God's willing sacrifice for the sake of the world.
So if you need to let yourself feel the suffering of this moment, do so without guilt or shame. Let it in, and let yourself learn from it. Give thanks to the One who gave everything to rescue everyone.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.