"Is God Good?" is the big idea for our Holy Week services this year at Legacy. Someone asked me if there was a surprise answer, and I told him "No, but the way we get to the answer will be different."
Most Passion Week messages focus on personal salvation and being made right with God through Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. This is God's personal demonstration of love for the individual and worthy of our attention and praise; but, as N. T. Wright and others remind us, in making this the only focus of our celebration we have missed other significant realities brought about when Jesus "moved into the neighborhood." (John 1:14, Msg.)
Particularly, we have missed that the Cross and Resurrection are God's answer to the problem of evil and suffering in our world.
Evil is real. Pain and suffering are part of our lives. We cannot deny it or look to eternity as our escape from it. So, the reasonable person muses, "If there is a God, He is either not good or not powerful enough to deliver us from all this pain." And, the cynic declares based on the same evidence, simply, "There is no God." So, what does a Christian have to say in response to these logical conclusions? How does a Pastor provide hope to those in his church who have been wounded by evil and scared by suffering?
I won't give you the full answers now because I want you to wrestle with the question for a while and you can hear the messages in person or online. But, I will give you some hints as to where I will be headed.
We expect God to be and act a certain way when we experience our world. The Triumphal Entry, which we will observe this Sunday, did not meet anyone's expectations of God's answer to Israel's experience with evil and suffering. But, Jesus coming as the Suffering Servant on a donkey was God's answer whether anyone grasped or accepted it.
I have to be careful not to place my expectations on God in the middle of my experiences. When I suffer, I must let God be God in my suffering, not expect God to become who I need/want Him to be for me or for those I love.
C S Lewis, in observing his own grief at the death of his wife, reminded me, "My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time...[God] is the great iconoclast." (A Grief Observed, 52) God's answer to evil and suffering has always confounded the wise and baffled the religious. Just because I don't get it, doesn't mean God is inept.
I'll post more on Saturday as part of our Day of Prayer and fasting and then next week after Easter Sunday. In the meantime, read the Gospel stories of Jesus as He completed His rescue mission of humanity and creation.