Saturday, January 16, 2010

Continuing Thinking About God and Suffering

I was just thinking of a poem written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he was in a Nazi prison camp in WWII. It is called "Christians and Pagans."

"Men go to God when they are sore bestead,
Pray to him for succour, for his peace, for bread,
For mercy for them sick, sinning, or dead;
All men do so, Christian and unbelieving.

"Men go to God when he is sore bestead,
Find him poor and scorned, without shelter or bread,
Whelmed under weight of the wicked, the weak, the dead;
Christians stand by God in his hour of grieving.

"God goes to every man when sore bestead,
Feeds body and spirit with his bread;
For Christians, pagans alike he hangs dead,
And both alike forgiving."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Thinking While Praying

As I begin to pray at times for concerns about those I love and people I know, I also think as I pray. I think things like: "While I am praying this, there are mothers praying as their children die of starvation and injuries. While I am praying for this or that, there are little children who are being raped and who are praying to God for help and it doesn't come. While I am praying, etc., etc., etc."

And, I begin to ask and think more than pray sometimes, wondering before God about how in the world God can deal with all of what is going on in the world, and wondering how God is really involved. I apologized to God in my prayer last night saying something like: "I wouldn't expect you to hear concerns like these when you have so many greater cries for help and need in this world." And, then it seemed to me that I was heard, heard because I realized where I stood in this world, heard because I began to feel the burden of God in this world.

And, I also was thinking as I often think that God does not always seem able to bring relief and help. That sounds blasphemous to some, but I think God is real and is really involved in the history of humanity and that means that God does not manipulate happenings like someone manipulating puppets on strings. If God was really able to save every little child who is being raped and beaten right now, I think God would save them from it. I do not believe God stands "at a distance,", nor do I believe that somehow the raping of little children is part of God's mysterious plan. No, it is part of a creation in rebellion against God's goodness, God's mercy and God's love.

Sometimes I think the Lord of the Rings is one of the best representation of how things really are in this world. There is a real struggle between good and evil, and good has an integrity and a persistence that makes life worth living. But, good doesn't always win out in this world. One day, I believe, it will, as it says in Rev. 21:1-4, but until then, we are part of a struggle.

Jesus prayed: "Thy kingdom come; thy will be done - on earth as it is in heaven." Doesn't that show that God's will often is not done on earth?! Otherwise, why would Jesus have prayed that way?

Also, in the Gospels we are told that Jesus couldn't perform any miracles in his hometown because they had no faith. God does seem to have chosen to need human cooperation in this world. In creating, God seems to have given himself to a certain extent to the creation, so that God is affected even as God affects the creatures he has made.

Just some things I have been thinking while I am praying.

As I was thinking these things last night, right at the end of my praying, everything became very, very simple, so that I quit thinking and prayed a very simple prayer that had no words, a prayer so simple it gave me a sense of peace and I fell asleep.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Some thoughts on this new year

I haven't been on the computer much since my laptop was messed up, but it is working again. It doesn't seem like it could be January 13 today. This is my wife, Sue's, 50th birthday, and my daughter is leaving on a plane for South Africa this Sunday. She will be returning in about 5 1/2 months. That sounds so long to me right now!

Jimmy will be taking two science classes at UT, and I am teaching a night class to part-time law students at LMU in Knoxville each Tuesday and Thursday. So, the new year has started off in some different directions. The hardest thing to deal with is my daughter heading off towards a place so far away. But, it is also such a wonderful chance to go to a land so different from our land, and a nation that is so young and struggling so hard to find its way to a real sense of freedom and justice and peace. I was thinking late last night that no matter what land you are in you are not really an "alien" or a "foreigner," if you really believe that all lands are ultimately God's lands, and if you believe deep in your heart that all people are ultimately God's people. If you carry that faith in your heart, you will find your home wherever you are, and others will welcome you whereever you are.