How do we hear God’s loving call in suffering?

Old entry I wanted to get out, April 17th:

I’m quite simply thrown back in my chair from this week’s shootings at Virginia Tech. Talking about God at times like this always takes me right to the “Why does God hate amputees?” argument made so popular lately by Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. Surely a God of love would refuse to let something like this happen. Surely prayer would just as easily heal those with lost limbs as it would those with mental and internal ailments so often reported as miraculous healings by more “charismatic” Christian traditions. Surely God would swoop down and grind those guns in Virginia into dust.

If you go to church this Sunday, you’ll hear about the meeting of Christ and Saul, about the mother of all conversion stories. You’ll hopefully hear that God reaches out to those who have struggled violently against themselves, against God. You might almost miss the dark shadow that passes through the very ending of both the Epistle and Gospel reading. In both, we get the faint reminder that in asking for these early members of the church to join him, Christ is really inviting the apostles to share in his suffering, that the invitation to life in Christ is an invitation to hurt, trial, imprisonment, and death.

For me, Christ (and God) overcome death in the way that we hear recorded in the stories of the canonical gospels – not by having magical or scientific powers akin to a Frankenstein movie – but by taking the real, gnawing sting of death away. People often say that everyone dies alone… I feel that the magic of that moment of resurrection comes from God’s willingness to BE PRESENT with us in the awful loneliness and fear that could be death. In other words, I don’t know if my God is a god who smites evil-doers before they can strike, but I’m glad that my God is one who can be with us and call us to be with each other in the hopes that the very act of being present for one another might undo the hurt caused by that evil.

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