One outcome of tragedy is that it further polarizes existing opposites. Everyone retreats to their respective corner. We use the tragedy to reinforce our stereotypes and justify our worldview. By this, we are driven further apart.
In the last 30 days we've had multiple national tragedies. Orlando, Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas are a few. We have retreated to poles such as:
Christian vs. Muslim
Pride vs. Anti-gay
Trump vs. #nevertrump
Black vs. White
We were walking across the parking lot to the grocery store. My son spotted a penny on the ground. “Dad! A penny!!!” He handed it to me and I flipped it back onto the blacktop.
Pennies are a nuisance. The U.S. Treasury might even discontinue them. It actually costs1.8 cents to produce a penny. In 2013, taxpayers lost $105 million on the making of pennies and nickels.
My son picked up the penny again. “Can you even believe this is on the ground?! Should we look for the owner? Maybe they’re missing it. If we can’t find them, can I keep it?! I’ll put it in my piggy bank!”
I saw the penny as insignificant. He saw it as a treasure. He valued what I believed had no value.
In the Bible, there are three insignificant people found throughout the law and the prophets.
A Christian woman mourns the death of a relative who was killed in a suicide bombing at the All Saints church on Sept. 24 in Peshawar, Pakistan. We are reminded of persecuted followers of Christ around the world. In Kenya, Syria, Egypt, Sudan . . . We pray:
Lord God, revealed in the Christ as the One whose foolishness is wiser than men and whose weakness is stronger than men:
Help those who suffer for the sake of truth; to find Your strength in their weakness, to see your glory in what is despised, to feel Your presence in what is desolate.
Help them understand that in Your gentleness there is power, that in Your grace there is strength, that in Your forgiveness there is life.
Relieve them from torture and pain, from strain of the emotions, from temptation, danger, and agony of soul.
Use their suffering for the conversion of those who torment them, for the strengthening of those who love them, for the welfare of Your people everywhere.
Keep them in Your steadfast love in Christ, our Lord, for His sake. Amen.
Taken from The Lutheran Book of Prayer
Dear reader, please consider a transfer of membership to my congregation in St. Louis, MO if you are a current resident of one of the following countries:
Afghanistan Saudi Arabia
Why relocate to St. Louis? Cardinals baseball (2011 World Champions). Four seasons. Budweiser. The Arch. Comparatively safe to your country. And our church needs members who have experienced outright persecution for their faith. In fact, I believe your presence in our church would be exponential in its impact. We need you to change us. Your American brothers and sisters are getting lazy on the couch of comfort and contentment.
We in the American church frequently lament the fall of Christian influence in the United States. But such whining seems to be a shrill cry when you consider the worldwide body of Christ. In a rather surprising front page cover, Newsweek’s February 13th, 2012 feature article is titled “The Rise of Christophobia.” It chronicles the intense worldwide persecution of Christians, particularly in Muslim majority countries. Noting the case of Nigeria, author Ayann Hirsi Ali writes, “In the month of January 2012 alone, Boko Haram (a national religious organization) was responsible for 54 deaths. In 2011 its members killed at least 510 people and burned down or destroyed more than 350 churches.”
We annually gather a reluctant batch of adolescent students in a rite called confirmation. In the Lutheran Service Book Agenda, a question is asked of all confirmands:
“Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” They are to respond: “I do, by the grace of God.”
We might get a different response if 14-year-old Billy was dropped in Pakistan where a “blasphemy law” can make a declaration of faith in the Triune God a criminal act. Each of us would give critical consideration to our confirmation vows if we lived under such a threat.
I am humbled by the faith of minority Christians who stand as lone voices in their country and culture. I am always a bit uncomfortable with the monolithic nature of my denomination’s demographic. We are too safe and too comfortable. The issues we fight about are too parochial. "Worship wars" are inconsequential when you could lose your job or your life for speaking the Apostles Creed. So with seriousness, I am requesting the transfer of any Christian who comes from a context of persecution. We need you. We need to you to:
“The more often you mow us down the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.” - The ancient church father Tertullian
I recently read a book by Doug Saunders called Arrival City. He writes about the final great human migration. "A third of the world's population is on the move this century, from village to city, a move that began in earnest shortly after WWII, when South American and Middle Eastern villagers left their homes to build new enclaves on the urban outskirts." The bottom line is that the whole world is becoming urbanized. What the Western world has already done a century ago, the rest of the world will do this century. Stunning facts:
This raises a number of questions - sociological, economic, educational, etc. A few questions I ask: Will people's quality of life really improve in urban areas as opposed to rural villages (beyond economic measurements)? What will happen to rural cultures, values, and traditions? What will this do to families? And there are a million more.
A final question I wonder about. What will this do for the mission of the church? Cities are already centers of learning, culture, politics, and education. Will the church be able to influence cities with the gospel? Will the church care for massive influxes of urban dwellers? I currently have a college intern who speaks Spanish, whose father is Peruvian. As a college student, he is considering pastoral ministry. Could we pour into him here in St. Louis, and raise him up in order to send him out? To Sau Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, or Buenos Aires?