Tragic Anniversaries and Embodying Resurrection Hope

By Ruth Hawley-Lowry 4-12-2010

This week is a confluence of anniversaries. April 7 was the 16th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda where more than 800,000 died in a few days. April 9 was the 65th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. April 11-18 are the "Days of Remembrance" for the Holocaust (as observed by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Even as I write people through the world hope for fairness in government, whether it's the people with green shirts in Iran, the red shirts in Thailand, the people in Kyrgyzstan, or those who seemingly vainly hope for a fair vote in the Sudan. The Poles are grieving the death of their president who was on the way to a remembrance, commemorating the death of 21,857 Poles who were murdered under the order of Stalin in Katyn.

In the weeks after Easter I yearn to hope, to run to the empty tomb and know that "Christ is Risen!" Yet too often I join with Thomas, "Unless I see ... I will not believe." In the midst of the reminders of the millions of innocents who have died in the commemorations in these weeks after Easter I wonder where the good news is and how to celebrate and even work toward that Good News. In my studies I came across a quote from Benjamin Franklin: "He that lives upon hope will die fasting." Is that all there is-hope with no substance?

The apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will. (NLT)

So what might hope embodied look like? In Desmond Tutu's book God Has a Dream he writes in the chapter entitled, "God Only Has Us" these words:

Our God is a God who has a bias for the weak, and we who worship this God, who have to reflect the character of this God, have no option but to have a like special concern for those who are pushed to the edges of society, for those who because they are different seem to be without a voice. . . . Perhaps there is something similar [to "compassion fatigue"] called 'God's partner fatigue,' where we try to ignore God's calling us to help, because to see is to witness the suffering of others and to experience pain. But there is an equally great experience of suffering that occurs when we try to numb ourselves to the realities around us. It is like ignoring a sore and letting it fester. When we look squarely at injustice and get involved, we actually feel less pain, not more, because we overcome the gnawing guilt and despair that festers under our numbness. We clean the wound-our own and others'-and it can finally heal.

Rev. Ruth Hawley-Lowry is a pastor in Michigan.

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