Pastor's Corner

 
 
 

Las Vegas and the Suffering Servant

Out of emptiness he came, like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground. He didn’t look like anything or anyone of consequence—he had no physical beauty to attract our attention. So he was despised and forsaken by men, this man of suffering, grief’s patient friend. As if he was a person to avoid, we looked the other way; he was despised, forsaken, and we took no notice of him. Yet it was our suffering he carried, our pain and distress, our sick-to-the-soul-ness. We just figured that God had rejected him, that God was the reason he hurt so badly. But he was hurt because of us; he suffered so. Our wrongdoing wounded and crushed him. He endured the breaking that made us whole. The injuries he suffered became our healing. (Isaiah 53:2-5 The Voice)
 
What can be said after a tragedy like the shooting in Las Vegas?  The depth of the horror reduces even the best-intentioned response to mere platitude and prattle.  
 
This is our world.  This is our country.  These are our people.  We, who Ronald Reagan called a shining city on a hill, too frequently watch as these events unfold.  
 
We watch until we can't look anymore.  Until the pain, distress and sick-to-the-soul-ness drives us to seek distraction.  But distraction is not redemption.  Pain masked is not pain addressed.
 
The scripture above is part of the Suffering Servant text from Isaiah.  It is the only place I can find solace in times like this.  The text reminds me that Christ endured the suffering and the cross so that he might be with us in the midst of our suffering.  If you've suffered tragedy in your life, you understand the strange way you are drawn to reach out to others who suffer as you did.  
 
"The injuries he suffered became our healing" in part because Christ is able, because of those injuries, to join us when we hurt. Douglas John Hall writes that "Christ forever returns to his cross, to his grave, to hell in order to be 'with us'."  
 
It is incredibly comforting to know that Christ was with the victims of the shooting and that Christ is with us as we mourn the events.  But the sure fact of Christ's presence in despair is also a challenge.  We haven't the luxury to be as those in the Isaiah text who regard the Suffering Servant as "if he was a person to avoid."  We cannot look the other way under the misconception that Christ "was despised, forsaken." We must take notice of him.
 
Knowing that Christ can be found with those who suffer today in the midst of the grief of Las Vegas, we must endeavor to do everything we can to fight against these acts in the future.  We must work hard to build the Kingdom here in this community.  We must engage the powers and principalities that wage such heinous war against our brothers and sisters - against Christ.  
 
Can an active, faithful church prevent further acts of carnage?  Can we stop the next event of national despair?  It's a possibility.  But, as Andrew Root writes:
 
"The church has no power in itself to bring forth possibility (it is God who brings forth new possibility); the church has only the call to enter despair with the promise that in so doing it will encounter the living crucified God who, through God's own beaten body, is working life and possibility out of death and impossibility."
 
Join me in taking deep notice of these events.  Help me to seek the Suffering Christ in the midst of the pain.  Discern with me what Christ is calling his people to do in this time and place.
 
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.