Dear friends of our Good Shepherd,

Loss. Sadness. Grief. Anguish. Mourning. We know about these realities. We see them every day. We experience them ourselves. We all know loss. We all know sadness. We all miss family and friends who were once present for us and are now absent. Their absence leaves a hollow space in our hearts, and our hearts ache.

There is so much grief in the world. Just this past week or so: 129 people killed by ISIS terrorists in Paris. 43 killed in Beirut, Lebanon. 224 people killed in an apparent bombing of a Russian plane. How many killed in Syria and Iraq? I don’t know. The sad truth is that we become numb to the endless news of acts of terror, just as we were often indifferent about the hundreds of thousands of Afghans and Iraqis that died after our invasions. Just last month, we accidently blew up a Doctors without Borders hospital in Afghanistan, killing 30 people. Do we grieve as much for those doctors, nurses, and patients as we grieve for the people of Paris?

The refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq are fleeing from the ISIS terrorists. Do we stand in solidarity with the refugees, or do we scapegoat them and add to the terror they have already experienced? Can we stand in solidarity against terrorism without being terrorists ourselves? Can we channel our righteous grief and anger about violence and terror into effective action against the us vs. them thinking that begets terror and violence? Can we embody Jesus’ spirit of love for our enemies?

When we feel that Jesus our good shepherd is absent from us, we struggle with God, but we do not give up: we wait for the Advent, the coming of God in Jesus. If we listen and do not give up, sometimes we hear the still small voice of God say,

I am your God, and you are my people. I am here with you. I will never leave you or forsake you. I give you the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of faithful love and life and justice and peace. I will restore your soul when you are crushed by grief and despair. I will protect you in the face of your enemies, even the enemy death. I will walk with you through the death dark valleys of your life. Nothing will separate you from me. Not even death. I will fill you to overflowing with love for me and your neighbor. I will reconcile enemies, feed the hungry, bring justice to the oppressed and freedom to all in bondage. I will do this through you my beloved children. And then, I will dwell in the new creation with you forever.

Amen – let it be so!

Pastor Eric