This week’s text is filled with landmines that would take far more than this reflection to address, especially in light of current events. It speaks of hell and how Jesus comes to bring, not peace, but a sword. It’s really disorienting, even frightening, not unlike the moment we find ourselves in. COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd are pulling back the curtain even more on the deep inequities and injustices of our world, especially here in the U.S. What a mess!
I’d like to offer a way through this difficult passage, which for me lies in verse 27. It’s a beautiful image. Jesus invites us to proclaim from the rooftops what he whispers in the dark. The idea that Good News begins in the dark and takes the form of a whisper is, well, true to my own experience. For me, this is where real authority comes from—whispers in the dark. They empower our rooftop proclamations.
I would like to offer three whispers in the dark that I’ve recently heard. I believe they are worth shouting from the rooftops in this crazy time.
The First Whisper
“I am pouring out my Spirit on ALL flesh.”
Just look at what’s happening. Hundreds of thousands of people all over the world are standing with and for innocent victims, saying “No more!” No more lynchings! No more scapegoats! No more injustice! For those who can see, we are witnessing the Spirit of Christ being poured out on ALL flesh. It’s a 21st Century Pentecost that goes well beyond the bounds of the church.
The Second Whisper
“Do not be afraid, I am with you.”
This whisper goes out to the protesters, particularly the people of color whose bodies are threatened and have been scapegoated for more than 400 years in the U.S. and beyond. It also goes out to those of us who are from the dominant culture, who fear what we will lose as we learn to live without levers of control. Do not be afraid.
The Third Whisper
“Enter my joy.”
This may be the hardest of all the whispers, especially in this moment. I received this whisper through Hultner Estrada, who is one of our Senior Fellows in Nicaragua and a dear friend to so many of us. After four difficult weeks he is still recovering from COVID-19, and this, after his father died of COVID-19 last month, along with 33 other pastors in his network.
It has been a long and unsettling journey for me and my family. Especially after mourning the death of my father…As I struggled with the long list of awful symptoms of the coronavirus, I found myself crying more than I ever have before. I was not prepared for what I experienced; the headaches, fever, difficulty breathing, joint pain, skin hypersensitivity, nausea, mouth bitterness, insomnia, and other side effects of medicines. It was hard to be joyful and I had reason enough to cry. I thought to myself “There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh, this is my time for weeping. I cannot rejoice today.”
However, during one night of insomnia I put into practice the exercise of counting the blessings of the day:
“The back pain is higher, but fever is lower, today”
“I cannot smell anything, but I have all the medicine I need.”
“I cannot breathe but my blood oxygen level is above the failure rate.”
Soon, the sensation of loneliness and sadness began to dissipate.
Now I understand that to overcome this pandemic, we need to find the place of mourning and rejoicing at the same time. Mourning with the suffering that has enveloped the world and mourning with so many who have lost relatives. But also rejoicing, taking time to discern the signals of God´s faithfulness and provision around us.
I wish to thank each of you for lifting me and my family up in prayer during this difficult time. We are also grateful for all the material support that many people sent; fruits and vegetables, bottles of honey, jars of juice and tea, soups, and other special meals that we received at our door. Thank you for your words of encouragement through so many texts, e-mails, songs and voice messages. They comforted my heart in the darkest nights. I have never been surrounded with so much love.
So let us rejoice in the Lord, always. Again, I will say, rejoice!
So, there it is, three whispers in the dark worth shouting from the rooftops.
What have you been hearing?