Innocent Suffering

2013-06-13 12.41.35

photo: M. Anderson, Ireland, 2013

We have a problem.

Our problem is simple, and it’s this: on the one side we have a God who, we say, is almighty, all powerful, all-knowing and all-loving. On the other side, this God’s world has toddlers lying drowned on beaches and terrified young girls kidnapped out of their schools by armed men who sell them as slave-brides. How do we reconcile our beliefs with the suffering of the innocent? It’s the age-old dilemma of faith.

This world, I realize, also has rainbows and beautiful sunsets, laughter and hugs –

but not enough of those, not nearly enough.

Today is a dark day, a way-of-the-cross day.

Today is a day to hear the crowds shout for blood, and to see Jesus’ blood streaming down his face from the thorns.

Today is a day for remembering sadism, the callous ability to cause harm, the sickness of powerful men who find joy in hurting others. Let’s be honest and name evil for what it is, and how OFTEN it is: today is a day for marking that there are, in our world, too many sociopaths and psychopaths, and not just individuals, but psychopathic tyrannical governments, too, whole systems that murder to cover up, who would rather their citizens die than vote, or who believe peace means crucifying to make an example. Demonic powers, the power of the dollar that sells arms to countries where children soldiers shoot other children, the powers of efficiency that ran the trains to the gas chambers, the powers of cynicism that say there’s nothing we can do, except to make our own selves comfortable and make money. How can we believe in a God through all this?

Crucify him! Crucify him! There is NO answer to the problem of innocent suffering. These children do not deserve to suffer. That’s the truth. All we can do, this frightening not-so-Good Friday, is to say that loudly and clearly. There is no faithful answer to suffering except one – the voluntary suffering WITH others. The standing up to injustice, even when it costs us, as well. And the remembering that God was in Christ, as Paul says, on the cross – the holy, terrible, awful, painful, wrongness of the cross – reconciling the world. For there is no answer to innocent suffering, except to stand with the innocent.

The Irony of this Jesus

Jesus carrying cross Bosch

everything in Mark’s Gospel is upside down:

What does it mean to be the Messiah of Israel?   We expect a King David who will live forever. Mark’s Gospel shows us Jesus, a preacher from the Galilee who winds up dead

What does it mean to be the messiah of the world?   We cry out for a Caesar, a strong leader to bang the drums of war and protect us from blown-up fears that may not even be real. Mark’s Gospel shows us Jesus, who tells us there’s no way around the cross

What does it mean to be a disciple? We want heroes, people to look up to with pride and self-confidence, a goal and plan that are measurable, achievable and possible. Mark shows us Peter and James and John, who failed Jesus miserably and then ran away

What does it mean to suffer?   We hope to avoid suffering or if we have to, get through it with medicine and drugs and escapes. Mark shows us a Jesus without relief, who cries out in pain “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

You know that friend of yours who says things you have to think about twice? That’s the Gospel of Mark. Mark is an ironic Gospel. Nothing – Jesus, the disciples, us – are what they first seem.

The Gospel of Mark that we hear this Good Friday asks us:

what does it mean to be afraid? Unsure? Cowardly? Ignorant? Lost?

What does it mean to die?

Mark doesn’t give any easy answers. But he says this:

There is more going on than we realize.

Just when we think there is no hope, there will be.

God can make something of nothing,

When we follow Jesus, through the pain, through the suffering, through the death, through the confusion, there WILL come, when we least expect it, a day of resurrection.

It will be a difficult walk. But we walk with Jesus.

Let us begin.