The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit. (Psalm 147: 1-5)
Monday morning, while I was working at the church, the news alerts started coming in about the violence and murder rained down by two individuals in the communities of James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon, Saskatchewan.
I could feel my heart catch in my throat. The details were horrifying, as were the messages of risk as the perpetrators of the violence were still on the loose. The entire province was asked to ‘shelter in place’ while the police tried to look for these two men that seemed to have randomly attacked and murdered their neighbours.
One of my close friends serves a two- point charge in Saskatchewan. I really have no sense of geography of that province so had to go online to find out where her home communities were in relation to Regina and the James Smith Cree Nation. She’s a good distance away – a small detail I was thanking God for – but as I was thanking God for the randomness of geography, I realized that somehow that would mean that I relegating all who lived in those two communities to being ‘cursed’ – I know that sounds harsh. But if we regard random things as ‘blessings’ it would also mean that we regard random things as ‘curses’.
And I really don’t believe that God works like that.
I really don’t believe that God is like a cosmic vending machine where we put our prayers and good thoughts in the top and out come random ‘good things’ like blessings. Conversely, I don’t think we put in sinfulness and bad thoughts at the top of this same cosmic vending machine and out of the bottom comes ‘bad things’ like curses or punishment.
Once again, I’m stuck again on the issue of theodicy – or where God is, even when terrible things happen. Terrible things like mass murders in small, remote communities like James Cree First Nation, or Weldon, (places that are eerily similar to Rideau Ferry) where good people are hurt and killed; where families are left to bury people they love, and where futures are loss into the abyss of grief and unrealized potential.
So, all I can say to you, is that I believe that God is here with us. Here with us as our hearts are broken once again by the senseless violence of our world. Here with us as we scurry to catch up with people we love to make sure they’re safe and protected; and if they aren’t, God is with us in our fear and anxiety as we wait for news. As we wait for both the good and the bad. God is with us as we yell at God for not exerting the power that we want God to, to keep us safe, to prevent us from being harmed, and, well – to give us all of those ‘good things’ that we secretly think God does.
Our faith doesn’t mean that life is easy. Actually, on the contrary, the stories of our faith contained in the Bible tell us more often than we care to acknowledge that often our lives our messy, ugly and violent. Often our lives result in people being hurt, in lives being lost, and potential being forever unrealized.
But the stories of our faith also tell us that this is not all there is. That this is not all that we are.
And in all parts of us, that God, who is all, is there with us.
Binding our wounds. Calling us by name. With an understanding of the messiness of who we are, that has no limit.
Blessings today and Remember you are Loved.