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Sunday, March 26, 2017

The World is Stranger, Darker, and Infused with Light

"There is a passage of the New Testament, namely the present one in John 9, which addresses this very issue," writes NT Wright in his commentary on the healing of the man who had been blind since birth.  "Jesus' disciples are Jews.  Yet they, and the Pharisees in verse 34, assume there is indeed a connection between present disability and previous sin. . . Thinking like this is a way of trying to hold on to a belief in God's justice.  If something in the world seems 'unfair', but if you believe in a God who is both all-powerful, all-loving, and all-fair, one way of getting round the problem is to say that it only seems 'unfair', but actually isn't.  There was after all some secret sin being punished.  This is a comfortable sort of thing to believe if you happen to be well-off, well fed and healthy in body and mind.  Jesus firmly resists any such analysis of how the world is ordered.  The world is stranger than that, and darker than that, and the light of God's powerful loving justice shines more brightly than that.  But to understand it all, we have to be prepared to dismantle some of our cherished assumptions and to let God remake them in a different way.  We have to stop thinking of the world as a kind of moral slot-machine, where people put in a coin (a good act, say, or an evil one) and get out a particular result (a reward or a punishment). . . No:  something much stranger, at once more mysterious and more hopeful, is going on .  The chaos and misery of this present world is, it seems, the raw material out of which the loving, wise, and just God is making his new creation."


 Over the last two weeks, we saw some raw material of misery and chaos, where ethic groups had murdered each other and burnt down their communities.  Where malaria ravages infants, where women routinely die for lack of a safe delivery option.  Where university students are lucky to have access to one volume of a 50 year old text.  Where teachers consider it normal to hit students with sticks for poor performance.  Where an HIV-infected husband hands his newborn over to an orphanage after his wife's death, because he feels unable to cope with the five children they already had.  Where a false Gospel of the cosmic slot-machine is used to deceive people.

But we also saw new-creation hope.  Church leaders vowing, never again shall we let our region descend into hate.  An agriculturalist with a passion for facilitating better gardens for women.  Medical interns learning how to diagnose and treat the darkness.  Young teams willing to live far from family, from conveniences like grocery stores or electricity lines, in order to be part of that bright light.

Sometimes travel in Africa is a bit like time travel.  The place we visited in Eastern Congo felt like Bundibugyo of the 90's, while Bundibugyo now boasts paved roads and cell towers.

The visible glimpses of the new creation trajectory give witness to a deeper transformation we can only begin to see, by faith.  The young grads who were once very green interns, now 30-ish team leaders with families of their own.  The faithful teachers who have persevered over 17 years at CSB.  In hearts and minds, we know justice is rolling down like a stream that broadens and gains momentum decade by decade.  

Join us in praying for these pioneers, these partners.  Ask God to complete the works of mystery and hope that bring the Kingdom to come.  I'll close with two bonus photos of our adventurous crossing from Congo to Uganda on the Semiliki.  Because sometimes pushing into the murky chaos and striving for light, is actually pretty fun.

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