We are all living our lives to some extent ‘from under the rubble’ right now. After years of pandemic life — the legitimate concerns of the virus itself, the restrictions to ‘normal’ life enacted to fight it, and the at times angry reactions to those measures, we don’t have a lot of gas left in the tank as we face the increased challenges presented by unsettling foreign wars that threaten the world as we know it, domestic political polarization, natural disasters, soaring cost of living, and our national reckonings with the past. We are all bruised and battered. Our souls are weary and our hearts battle-scarred. And the road ahead still looks long and hard.
But the Gospel insists that this isn’t the end of the story. We are not defined by the worst moments of our lives. There is a promise of new life.
As challenging as all this may be, one of the blessings of being in an ancient religious tradition is that we know that we are by no means the first to experience times like this. Throughout the past two thousand years of Christian history, and if we include our faith’s Jewish origins, two thousand years beyond that, there have been many times when it’s seemed as though the good days are over and there is only uncertainty and fear for the future. And so, this Lenten series explores a few of these voices, to see what encouragement they may have to offer us as we are challenged to face our own uncertain futures with faith:
- The book of Lamentations in the Bible, which describes Judah’s experience of the fall of Jerusalem and exile to Babylon (ca. 587 BCE).
- St. Augustine’s response to the sack of Rome (410 CE), which was a symbolic blow to the Empire’s stable civilization and flooded his North African homeland with Italian refugees.
- John Donne’s (d. 1631) reflections on a severe illness that he thought would kill him.
- The theology of the American Civil Rights Movement (1930s-60s)
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s call to radical Christian responsibility within the darkest days of Nazi Germany (1930s-40s), along with his reflections on the passing of time during a prolonged crisis.
- Jürgen Moltmann’s search for “a life in Germany ‘after Auschwitz‘” (1950s-80s).
- The thought of Fr. Alexander Men (d. 1990), a Russian Orthodox priest widely believed to have been the last martyr of the Soviet era.
- Final thoughts