Millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of persons pray for peace in Ukraine. Yet, peace seems elusive. The same can be said for countless other circumstances bringing pain, suffering, and death from no more mass shootings to cures for cancer to an end to COVID.
Why, Lord, do you not intervene?
Cyndi shared with me the other evening, after watching an update on the latest attacks by the Russian military on Ukraine, that she doesn’t understand. She prays every day for a miracle that would bring peace. And she knows that she isn’t alone.
Why, Lord, is there no peace in sight?
We celebrate communion on the first Sunday of each month as part of our tradition. We don’t have to wait until the first Sunday of each month to celebrate communion. Nothing is lost if we celebrate communion every Sunday. And nothing is lost if we celebrate communion during the middle of the week. This is our choice.
Russia didn’t have to invade Ukraine. It was Vladimir Putin’s decision. There was no mandate that Salvador Ramos kill innocent children, but he chose to do so nonetheless. Likewise, there is no divine ruling that the U.S. allow the proliferation of guns to continue. We choose this pathway one election and one vote at a time.
God chose to create humanity and give us an incredible gift requiring tremendous love. God gave us the freedom of choice. But like all good gifts, there can be a downside. In the case of choice, the downside is consequence.
Sometimes I forget some of the subtleties that come from God choosing to live as a person in history. A human body, mind, and spirit born in an ordinary way. Jesus was born to a poor family, raised by persons from His village, taught by teachers who tried their best to help Him learn, and parents who weren’t prepared for the consequences of pregnancy.
Jesus had a body that needed fuel for energy, ached from over-worked muscles, and felt sorrow when others suffered. Just like us, Jesus laughed, cried, and experienced anger. And just like us, His body was God-art.
And Jesus made choices and suffered consequences. The most significant was His choice to allow His enemies to end His life in one of the most inhumane methods imaginable. An object lesson with eternal consequences.
What set Jesus apart from you and me was His divinity. We read in the opening of John’s Gospel that Jesus wasn’t created but was always and will always be the alpha and omega, the first and the last.
One day as Jesus was walking and talking with His followers, He noticed a blind man. “What horrible thing did this man or his family do that he was born blind?” His followers asked. “Nothing,” Jesus responded. And with mud made from spit and dirt, Jesus applied a treatment to the man’s eyes. “Go and wash off the mud,” Jesus instructed the blind man.
Sight is a complex system of light, brain, and body. And the simple act of washing your face likewise engages complex systems that allow for motion, touch, smell, and taste.
Did you know that wetting your forehead is one way to help ground your thinking? According to Psychologist Michael Breus, splashing water on your face lowers your anxiety by grabbing the attention away from your sympathetic nervous system. This act activates your parasympathetic nervous system to counteract anxiety.
Jesus told him, “Go and wash your face in the Pool of Siloam…” So the man went, washed his face, and came back seeing.
Each of our bodies is a work of art created by a God proud of creation. But unfortunately, most of us don’t take good care of God’s handiwork, whether referring to our body or the earth we depend on for life.
One day Jesus was with His friends for supper. He knew that it was the last time His friends would see Him alive. So Jesus left them, and us, with a lasting memory. As supper began, Jesus took bread, broke it, and offered it to His friends after blessing it. And he provided this profound metaphor, “This bread is my body.”
Like the bread that Jesus so easily broke into pieces, He knew that His body was no match for the violence that humanity can inflict on each other. Jesus knew that His body would stop functioning as life left Him. And some of His friends would watch Him die, helpless to do anything to prevent death from coming.
“As often as you eat bread, remember me,” Jesus continued with His illustration of how to keep His memory alive. But, most important, Jesus wants us to know that death isn’t the end.
We all have a body, and there is nothing more personal. And our brain is tightly integrated into every part of our body. A central nervous system helps us experience the world God created while taking care of necessary functions like breathing.
And then there is spirit. A mysterious glue that keeps body and mind integrated with the present and connected with God and all of creation.
The man who was blind since birth had a choice to make. Jesus applied a balm to his eyes and told him what to do next. He chose to do as Jesus instructed and was healed.
Aundi Kolber writes in Try Softer that “just as God can heal cancer through modern medicine, He can use tools like counseling to rewire our brains.” Medical science, doctors, therapists, and bridge builders are all incarnate examples of God-art. Persons lovingly crafted with skills and inspired to contribute to humanity.
Arguably choice seems like an option only for the privileged. Persons with access to resources and the power to decide. However, it is our collective choice to structure our communities in this manner. With each election and each vote, we choose to privilege a handful of people over the rest of us. We give away our choice to trust in their benevolence.
On the other hand, we don’t choose our bodies. And, for the most part, we live with whatever consequences affect the only body we’ll ever have. Sometimes out of choice, whether someone else or our own decisions. Regardless, our body is inseparable from who we are.
You can join us each Sunday online by going to the button on the homepage of our website – Click here to watch. This button takes you to our YouTube channel. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to connect@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.
Content for this series is based in part on:
Aundi Kolber. Try Softer: A Fresh Approach to Move Us out of Anxiety, Stress, and Survival Mode–and into a Life of Connection and Joy. Carol Street, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2020.
Tehrene Firman. “Does Splashing Water on Your Face Really Help With Anxiety, or Is It Just Something People Do in Movies?.” © WellandGood.com, October 16, 2018. Retrieved from: link