A bunch of people got onto an airplane the other day. They were on vacation, going to visit relatives, moving to a new place, taking a business trip. They were men and women, old and young, babies in arms and folks in wheelchairs. The logistics of their trips had been planned – where they were going and when, who was going to pick them up, whether they needed to go to the currency conversion kiosk …they each had a checklist of sorts, a plan of action.
And then something happened. A missile, and then the plane was exploding and bodies were flying and nothing that happened was part of the plan of action. And even the remnants of their bodies and the plan that had carried them were no longer treated according to the normal plan for such abnormal events.
So much for the checklist. So much for the plan.
A few thousand miles away, parents were dressing their children for school. Food was being prepared, very early in the morning, before dawn since it was Ramadan, the month of daytime fasting. Men were planning their workday at their tasks. Women were figuring out if they needed to go to the market for more rice or bread for the iftar dinner after sundown.
Nonpolitical people, Palestinians who simply wanted to live their lives, regardless of the
political strife that has been a subtext of their existence for decades. It was the normal plan of the day for these folks during the holy month.
And then something happened. Bombing from Israel, intent on destroying Hamas, viewed by Israel as a terrorist political group, but who was killed? Children. Old people. Women. Maybe a few Hamas leaders somewhere amongst the dead, but mostly not. Children who should have been walking down the road with their backpacks filled with their books and homework were in morgues. Mothers were in the emergency medical facilities, being treated for shrapnel and for traumatic amputations. Men screaming, looking for their families in the remnants of their demolished homes.
So much for the plan of the day.
What happens to us when our plan of the day is shattered? When our child or our spouse is injured in an accident? When we get a frightful diagnosis? When our friend is arrested? When our son checks himself into rehab?
Plans of the day. The old joke is this: “Do you want to make God laugh? Make a plan.”
The joke is predicated on the notion that God knows that life is unpredictable and that we human beings, who think we can control our universe, can forestall that unpredictability by making a plan.
But our plans are waylaid by the things we cannot predict, by human folly, by wars, by plagues, by the unexpected.
And in those moments, like the painful moments we have heard about these past few weeks, if we know nothing at all, we can still know one thing: God suffers beside us.
God feels our pain, and weeps with us, and holds us in the divine embrace to comfort us and say that bombs and death and demonization of other people are not the only story to be told.
There is another one, one that is based in our sure knowledge that God is with us. God sent our savior, Jesus Christ, fully anticipating that bad things would happen, then as now. God’ s son Jesus taught us to know our Creator in ways that humans could understand. And then Jesus entered into our world of struggles and pain and brokenness in the deepest possible way: he allowed himself to become a victim of betrayal and to be crucified. To suffer pain.
To feel the sting of Judas’ kiss. To undergo the lash and the cross.
When we cry out “does God know how much pain I am in?” remember this: Jesus, the Son of God, willingly accepted his death.
To know how it feels to be fully human. To understand our cries. To have intimate and personal knowledge of what we suffer.
And that is why Paul says “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Jesus saved us. Jesus suffered for us. He feels the cries of mothers in Gaza whose children have died. He feels the shock of families whose loved ones died on the Malaysian flight over the Ukraine. He feels the fear of little children, sent by their families across the Sonoran desert to find an escape from gang violence in Central America.
Jesus knows the drop in the pit of the stomach of a plan gone awry in an awful way. And he doesn’t turn away. He stays with us in the confusion and the anger and the grief. Because there is nothing, NOTHING, that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And that love should then motivate us to make changes in the world, or our little corner of it, in a way that is more in keeping with the Creator’s intent than bombs and detention camps.
If we are not separated from the love of God, how can we possible act in ways that deny that all are given that love? How can we not feel their pain, as God feels ours? How can we not speak out and say “Enough!”