Friday, October 5, 2007


SUDDENLY, TOUGH REALITIES. At a restaurant table of weekly fellowship, we talked this morning with a friend who embarked on an overseas medical mission with his family a few months ago but had to return suddenly because his wife developed an ovarian cyst. This week they learned that it is malignant. Instead of serving others for a year overseas, this family now grapples with very tough realities. The question was raised in our table conversation: "Why would God allow such a thing to occur when you have obeyed what you felt was God's leading?" One response from a table member: "The work you were called to do must have been very important, for Satan sure must not have wanted you there."

LIVING THE QUESTIONS. Not sure that is or is not a reason. At this point all who care for this family are pretty much grasping at straws. All this is ultimately beyond us. Sometimes, trying to make quick sense of tough stuff in efforts to comfort one another, we can come out with some pretty shaky pronouncements. Grappling with these issues from a perspective of Christian faith in such occasions is very important. Not arriving at quick summations is also very important. Truth and grace are usually known more in living the questions.

THE GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT OVERCOME. I contributed this to the table conversation: When Jesus called Simon and gave him the name Peter, "rock," it is clear this was not about apostolic authority or papal succession. It was about Jesus using the likes of the rocky Simons of the world through which to build his church--reveal and grow his kingdom--and the gates of hell would not overcome it. Whatever the causes or sources of this interruption [detour, illness, redirection, struggle, battle], our confidence is that through the likes of us trying to be faithful through stuff such as this, Jesus is continuing to build his church...and the gates of hades or hell will not overcome it--or us.

And then I thought of two verses of Martin Luther's born-out-of-tribulation anthem, a "Mighty Fortress Is Our God":

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side,
The man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He--
Lord Sabaoth His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And tho this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph thru us.
The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him--
His rage we can endure,
For, lo, his doom is sure:
One little word shall fell him.

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