There’s no shortage of pain and hurt around us and in the world. You only have to turn on your TV to hear the stories about the anguish that people are going through and the challenges that tear the world apart. Some of these deep-seated challenges, like the raging conflict in the Middle East, date back centuries.
The level of tension within our families, communities, and the world is so high that very often we feel like our entire life will blow up in our face. Our sad story is that nothing seems to matter, nothing seems to work, and nothing seems exciting anymore - save for the little moments of happiness we can steal or create for ourselves, our families, and our friends. Life appears extremely shallow because of the discontent with which we walk around and approach each other.
One question has been: what’s there to celebrate in our lives and in the world? If we voice support for Israel over the current war with Hamas, we are considered as being right with the world by some, and not by others. And if we voice opposition to the military response by the government of Israel, we are judged as favoring the terrorists who have killed innocent men, women, and children, and are holding hundreds in captivity. Either way, you can be right or wrong, depending on your audience.
We saw the violence, and we continue to see more violence - we see the graphic and horrific nature of this violence, and we are all filled with desperation. We wonder, like many millions of us do, why we seem to lack the capacity to do anything meaningful to change anything. It feels like standing by the prophet Ezekiel in the Valley of the Dry Bones and hearing the eternal question from God: “Son of man, can these bones live?” You can be surprised at this question. How can these beat-up bones live? How can these disjointed bones live? There’s no life in the bones that you see, and you don’t see any possibility of life in them.
We go back to our earlier question, "What’s there to celebrate in our lives and in the world?"
I once heard a story by Dewitt Jones, who used to work for National Geographic as a photographer. He tells a story of photographing on an island off the coast of British Columbia, but things weren't going well. The weather was gloomy, and this was reflected in the photographs he had been taking. After a break, he decided to go back and take some more.
He picked up his big camera and tripod. But when he looked up from the lodge where he was staying, he saw a five-year-old boy sitting on the steps and wearing a big smile on his face. The boy looked at him and asked if he had a camera. “Yeah, I got one,” said Dewitt. The boy then raised his hand, and Dewitt realized why the boy asked the question because he had a magic camera - and it was yellow with a blue lens, a red eyepiece, and a turquoise rewind knob with a small straw coming out of it.
Dewitt recalls it like this: “Can I photograph with you?” asked the boy. That was about the last thing I wanted to have happen, but I didn’t know how to say no, so I said, “Come on.” So we went down into the woods, and I got my first shot. The kid was so cute. He squeezed in front of the tripod, backed up against it, and raised it.
We kept going. Me shooting and grousing, him shooting and smiling. And then it started to rain. I prepared to set up for what I thought was the last dismal shot of the day. The boy sat next to me in the grass, looking very intently at all of my gear, and finally, he raised his face towards me, and said, “Does your camera have juice in it?”
I said, “No.”
“Mine does,” said the boy, and then he drew some liquid through that little straw.
The little boy’s question almost knocked me over: “Did my camera have juice in it?” No, mine didn’t, but his did. I was the one with the wrong perspective. I was the one who’d lost the passion to find that next right answer.
So, what’s there to celebrate in our lives, and in the world?
The truth is, there isn’t only one right answer to all of our questions. There is more than one right answer, and the moment we open ourselves up to embrace this genuine part of our lives, obstacles can turn into opportunities, the limitations we place on ourselves become platforms for true and real transformation, rigidity evolves into flexibility, closed doors become open doors, scarcity turns into abundant living, and indifference becomes an opportunity to show gratitude.
Take a moment and recall when the prophet Ezekiel was confronted with one of life’s questions: “Can these bones live?” His response was, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” This sincere confession by the prophet hints at our own powerlessness, but we don’t throw our hands up in the air in exasperation at the question because we know who it is that knows. It is the Sovereign Lord. And that, in itself, is more than a source of great comfort.
As we face some of the devastating and incomprehensible challenges in our lives and throughout the world, we ask this question, "What’s there to celebrate in our lives and in the world?"
Over the past couple of weeks, we have challenged you with a stewardship message. As we bring our active Stewardship Campaign to a close, it is my joy to let you know that there’s a lot to celebrate at Christ Church. And we count on your faithful giving to help us make this celebration very real in the lives of all the people we serve - including you.
I’d like to leave you with these words: There’s more than one correct answer to all our questions. And as deeply challenging as our lives and world may be, may you always remember that there’s always something worth celebrating about our life and world.
To pledge to Christ Church for 2024, please visit www.christchurchcolumbia.org/2024-pledge