Posts Tagged ‘suffering’

bowling in jerusalemJesus and his disciples are sitting outside a bowling alley near the Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem. News has just broken about the death of eighteen people when a tower collapsed near Siloam.

John (holding a newspaper): Man, this stinks. Imagine those families. One minute they’re here, the next they’re gone. How sad.

Andrew (looking questioningly at Jesus): Yeah, Jesus, what’s with that?

Jesus (rubbing his chin): What’s with the tower collapsing or what’s with death and sadness?

Andrew: Well, both.

Jesus (stacking pebbles): The tower collapsed for natural reasons. In this case they’ll find that the foundation was built with inferior materials and the last earthquake set the tower out of balance. If people had been paying attention, they could have seen this coming.

Nate (nodding): That makes sense. And I suppose it’s God’s judgment?

Jesus (looking up): The eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them — do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?

Matthew (frowning slightly): I think not. No, they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

John (nodding): Agreed. That’s not the way you work. You are merciful almost to a fault.

Jesus (smiling at John): Yes, I love mercy. However, the laws of nature are consistent and one event leads to another. Everything a human does sets a chain of events in motion, too. Humans don’t accept all actions have consequences. Laziness, neglect, substance abuse, fighting, stressing out and ignorance lead to messed up minds, bodies, and relationships. I’m sure the builders of the tower had no intention of it falling, but poor materials and design coupled with minor earthquakes — a natural event for this area — led to disaster.

James: So everything is random? We are at the mercy of a threatening world?

Jesus (shaking his head): No, it’s anything but random. If you live on a beach, you’ll be at risk from storms, floods, tsunamis, and erosion. You can count on it. Humans and nature obey principles — every dynamic action has a consequence. Nature and humans are dynamic and dangerous. Everyone is at risk. Daily. You truly can’t comprehend it all. Since Adam and Eve, the dominoes have been falling. This age is tragic, but know I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am you may be also. There is hope in the midst of tragedy.

Andrew: What about death and sadness?

Jesus: Death and sadness make people seek peace and hope. We all live in the shadow of death. All die. I bring life and bring it abundantly. I will take creation back to Eden someday. I am the source of peace. I am the hope for tomorrow. All peace is found in my unconditional love. Tragedy draws people to me as naturally as water runs downhill. There’s no greater faith than trusting in me to turn bad into good. It takes time. I stand with survivors as they face shock, denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression, then acceptance and hope.

Bartholomew (shaking his head): That seems a bit formulaic and trite.

Jesus (nodding sadly): Yes. It seems that way on the outside and one would be crazy to call tragedy a good thing. But inside, reality is altered and people grow closer in love and grace. I heal. I loved those who died at Siloam and they are in my care now. My peace and love can comfort those left behind.

John: Seems like a real leap of faith.

Jesus: It is. It takes boldness and time to ask, ‘Where’s the good in this?’ Now you are looking in a dirty mirror, but in my kingdom you will see things clearly. What is unclear now will be clear in my kingdom. I am in the process of redeeming all of this.

Peter: How will you do it?

Jesus: Through a tragedy. You know me and what I have said. This temple — me — will be torn down, but it will arise in three days. Through tragedy you will see my love and redemption made complete.

Tr8: In tragedy, have faith and find peace in Christ. Share love and the source of peace with those who suffer. Jesus has experienced death so we might live in and with him.

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The continuing story of two traitors: Cornelius and Peter. The night of the grill Jesus was betrayed into the hands of his enemies. Cornelius was the Roman presence as the chief priests captured and tried Jesus at Caiaphas’ palace.

Peter following the crowd to the palace gate. He sat nervously by a fire.

Bystander: It’s getting colder! Hey, weren’t you with the Messiah guy?

Peter: No. You’re thinking of somebody else.

Another bystander: No, I’m sure you were with him in the Temple. I saw you!

Peter: Seriously? You think I’d get sucked into this Messiah business? No way.

Cornelius waited at the gate as well. He wanted nothing to do with Jewish religious politics — especially with regard to Jesus of Nazareth. As long as things were relatively peaceful. He would watch, not act. He moved nearer the fire and listened.

Peter: I have a twin brother. Maybe you saw him.

Cornelius: Nah, you are one of them. I remember seeing you with him in Jerusalem a year or so ago. He healed one of my servants.

Peter: I say, ‘Hail Caesar! Not, Hail King of the Jews!’ The hell with this, I’m out of here!

Cornelius and the others watch as Peter disappears into the night muttering under his breath. Cornelius turns and walks into the courtyard. Jesus is in the middle of a group of Temple guards and clerics. He’s taking a beating, but makes no sound.

Cornelius (shakes his head and thinks to himself): Jewish justice. Religious fanatics. He doesn’t deserve this. They gripe about Rome, but look at these bloodthirsty fools!

The leaders and priests walk over to Cornelius.

Caiaphas: We need to take him to the Governor’s palace. We’ll have a riot here if we pursue this further here. Take possession of the prisoner and escort us. Pilate’s orders.

Cornelius: As you wish.

Cornelius has a front row seat for Jesus’ mock trial, beating, humiliation and crucifixion. He waits on Golgotha for the injustice to end. He’s been involved in a lot of death, but this is too much. The skies darken and all that can be heard are the sobs of a handful of women nearby.

Jesus (turning a swollen, knowing eye toward Cornelius): It is finished!

Cornelius is amazed. He has seen death take men, but never a man take death. It was like someone leaving a room.

Cornelius: Surely, this was the Son of God!

At the end of his duty shift he called for a scribe.

Scribe: Sir?

Cornelius: Take this down: ‘I, Cornelius, Centurion of the Italian Regiment, herewith resign my commission. In consideration of leave accrued, this resignation is effective immediately. I depart for the coast today and will sail with the first favorable tide.’ Deliver this to the Governor’s palace immediately.

Cornelius retired to Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast, troubled with the role he played in Christ’s crucifixion. He prayed to God with his household for forgiveness on a daily basis.

Peter was staying with Simon the tanner in Joppa when he had a dream and followed the Spirit’s leadership to Caesarea (Acts 16).

Peter finds himself knocking on a retired Centurion’s door in Caesarea. The door opens and a servant escorts Peter’s crew into the inner court. There, he is met by Cornelius and his household.

Cornelius (looking closely): I know you.

Peter (looking down): I know you, too.

Cornelius: You denied your Lord…

Peter: You crucified…

Silence.

Peter spends the rest of the evening telling Cornelius the story of the risen Christ. Confessions are made. Burdens are dropped. The gospel brings peace and forgiveness to both.

Tr8: Confession lightens the heart. Peace is in forgiveness. Bonds are forged in suffering.