Life is a mess.
Covid-19 keeps acting like a pandemic, paying no attention whatsoever to politicians who want to send it packing with their denials of science. The virus is immune to protestations by economic enterprises desperate to staunch financial hemorrhaging. Covid is in control, not us. Accept it, cope with it, be real. It’s a mess, and it’s not going away soon.
Racism keeps showing up in our cultural systems, without regard for white culture claims about all the progress we’ve made — from a white perspective. It’s a mess, and it’s not going to be fixed by a few days of enlightened white people enjoying how “woke” we have become. The evil is centuries deep.
Evangelicals have sold their souls for bumper-sticker values — at least some evangelicals have. They care only about a single issue, like overturning Roe v. Wade, or defeating some other cultural hinge-point of leftist evil. Nothing else matters. Some who claim to be evangelicals love winning, no matter the cost, more than they love Jesus. It’s a mess, and the damage to the Way of Christ may take generations to overcome.
So many liberals are hypocrites, too: lots of talk about racial and economic justice, but no real sacrifice. Settling for the emotional juice of loudly protesting injustice, yet unwilling to give up the personal rewards of systemic privilege. The problem is always “over there” and never “within.” They insist that everyone tolerate their intolerance toward those they deem intolerant.
Our nation has lost so many of its traditional values, or perhaps the values have just shifted. Some of the shifts are terrifying, while others are encouraging. We are clearly caught in a critical national moment, between the tectonic plates of cultural change, and the ascendency of tribalism with its accompanying loss of capacity for social compromise is destroying us.
Life is a mess.
Yet, there is also reason for hope, because the Spirit does some of God’s best work in the midst of a mess. Exoduses can come out of oppression. Isaacs can come out of dead wombs. Messiahs can come out of Nazareth. Life can come out of the tomb. It’s not simple or easy, usually slow and painful, but it’s possible for us to participate in healing beyond our capacity to imagine: when we let the Wind of the Spirit blow us where the Spirit would have us go. That demands practicing humility and loosening the grip on our agendas. It requires Eucharistic availability: where we are willing to become broken bread and poured out wine for the healing of the brokenness of everyone, not just a few.
Life is a mess. I can’t fix it. You can’t fix it. None of us can fix it. The only thing we can do is give in to the unstoppable movement of the Spirit of God reconciling all things within us and within the world. If we can succumb to that power working in and through us, then perhaps we can be part of moving our worlds a little closer to the “very good” creation that God has had in mind for us since the beginning. Those are pious words, but reality lives in them: resurrection power has always been and will forever be at work in those who set their agendas aside for the divine agenda of reconciling all.
Life is a mess, which is just the kind of place where incarnational reconciliation does its best work.
* Photo of ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral, Scotland