I am presently in North Carolina at the Ridgecrest Conference Center for continuing education as a chaplain. The company that I chaplain through, Corporate Chaplains of America, does this twice a year and I am appreciative of this training – though more so when it doesn’t take me away from home and church on weekends. The photo attached to this post was taken when I started thinking about what I wanted to write concerning. You see at the moment I took that photo a multitude of thoughts were going through my head. Here is what was happening:
- I was reading a book of sermons from my favorite German theologian while waiting for lunch and trying to bring a little peace back to my mind. Jürgen Moltmann once fought against most of the rest of the world as a German Air Force auxiliary until he was captured became a believer in Jesus as Lord in a Scottish prisoner of war camp.
- The reason I didn’t have much peace at the moment was because I was (and am) hurting for two friends that Pam and I love. I had just spent the previous hour trying to write out a prayer to send to them to hopefully express a little of my love for them in the midst of their pain and grief and be a part of the comfort that they know is found in Christ and His church. I wanted the words to be right even though I am pretty sure that none of the words will mean anything. So I struggled with the words, all the while remembering that the loved ones who reach out to them and are around them will say what my written words could not, and knowing that so many of the people who were sending my friends words of love were doing so in Russian because of their years of service in Belarus and Russia.
- I was intermittently unable to avoid a few different conversations by the groups that joyously walked by me on their way to lunch. Three of those conversations happened in languages that I do not understand and that came from three difference continents. It was pretty easy to tell that they were conversations of groups who loved each other.
- All of this took place on a porch that was built a long time ago by Southern Baptists who were almost assuredly detected by old, white men who had been raised in the South.
To quote Randy Stonehill “it’s a great, big, stupid world” and there is a ton of pain within it. Still there are moments when I experience brief moments of people from all over the world, with very little experience in common, being brought together by nothing other than a belief that Jesus is Lord that I know God peace can overcome anything.
My Jewish friends will have begun celebrating Sukkot today, a festival that commemorates the harvest and the Exodus. I’m not Jewish and I don’t want to claim any of their heritage for my own benefit. I do, however, know a little bit about Ancient Near Eastern Jewish culture because it was my Lord’s culture. Sukkot celebrate to remember the God Who redeems His people out of the pain and exile of the fallen world. He redeemed His people because He is the God who “devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished.” I know that my Redeemer lives and He has and will set us free. I was reminded of this today while sitting on a conference center porch in North Carolina.