We Are About Relationships
Every time I turn on my phone, I see news headlines. I have set my Channel 4 app and my NPR app to send me push notifications with local and national news. As annoying and distressing as I find those headlines at times, it’s important for me to see them. I consider it a spiritual practice. I need to hear what is making the news. I need to see that shootings are happening almost daily in certain parts of Nashville and that international climate talks are progressing.
The risk I run in seeing these headlines every day is growing numb to them. In fact, it has already happened. When I first saw the news about the shootings in San Bernadino last week, I felt no emotion. I am ashamed to say it, but my first reaction was, “Well, here we go again.”
It was only later that I began to be ashamed of my own reaction. Have I really become numb to such tragedy? Can I really just shrug my shoulders and then go about my business? Has our society—have I—gotten so jaded that we can no longer feel the shock and pain of others? Where are my tears? Where is the lamentation?
In reflecting on all of this, I realize that at the root of my numbness is a sense of helplessness. Despair. I have not had much hope that anything can change. We have a shooting, we express our shock, we talk about it for a few days, people argue about whether the root issue is gun control, mental illness or radicalization…and then nothing happens. So, what can I do?
I brought all of these feelings into worship with me on Sunday, and listened to Matt preach about hope. He lifted up the image from Isaiah of the green shoot growing out of the dead stump. And then during the communion liturgy I found myself reading the words, “you spoke to us through your prophets, who looked for that day when justice shall roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
I have read those words a thousand times, sometimes just by rote. But this Sunday the Holy Spirit broke through to me. In that moment, I felt the heartbreak of God over our violence and our isolation from one another. I felt my own heart break because the world is not yet as it should be. The emotions flooded in, and I was able to shed tears and lament the brokenness of our world…and of myself.
That’s the beauty of liturgy. We hear it over and over, and yet God still speaks through it if we are listening. That’s the power of worship. We can come together with the people of God every week to lament, to shed tears, to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven, to be fed with the body and blood of Christ, and to be reminded of the hope that we have in God. Worship, prayer, communion, praise—these are all powerful and radical acts of hope, not to be underestimated.
The problems in our world are daunting. There are no easy answers. But becoming numb is not an option for those of us who follow Christ. Even as the headlines flow in, we are called to be deeply involved in our world, for it is the world God loves. We are called to keep praying and waiting and working for God’s kingdom, knowing with certainty that one day that kingdom will be realized on earth as it is in heaven. And for my part, I am grateful to have people like you with whom to worship, watch, work and wait.