The little mountain valley where we spend the summer is very beautiful this morning. It is quiet except for the birds, and the sun is over the mountain tops in a blue, blue sky. It seems like the world is perfect, like life is only, simply, beautiful. But I just read where they found a nine year old girl in a refrigerator, dead since January. And I read about people fleeing terrorists, about gunmen and killers of all kinds robbing people of the right to live their lives in peace. How can life be so hard, so terribly hard? I grieve for mothers and fathers who lose their precious ones. I grieve for the disappointments, the lost hopes and despair of so many.
Since the beginning, people have wrestled with the unanswerable question of why so many will live and die with no hope, no justice, no mercy. It can certainly be overwhelming. The tragedies can suck the joy out of us, leaving us adrift in sadness, and powerless. But, it is that very thing I fear the most. That those of us with good lives, those of us who have been blessed with means will throw up our hands at the magnitude of evil and misfortune and do nothing.
I don't want to get stuck in that place. There are things I can do. Every religious leader that honored the sanctity of life urges us to help. When asked how to show love to him, Jesus said over and over, "Feed my lambs". He didn't say, build magnificent cathedrals to me. He said to care for those in need. One remarkable leader said of another: “If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought,
acted and inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of
peace and harmony.” - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. From another religion: Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love: this is the eternal rule. Buddha. From the IJS: Peace, according to the Jewish sages, is the ultimate purpose of the whole Torah: "All that is written in the Torah was written for the sake of peace." Tanhuma Shoftim 18.
A call to stop the madness is a call to a purpose greater than pursuing our own happiness. It is a call that can be answered a million ways. There is so much opportunity to make a difference using our talents and our resources, and the job description for a warrior for peace is as varied as the personalities combining to make our society. The truth is, every single thing we do tilts the balance one way or another. There are no lives lived that do not affect others.
My friend, Jim Volkema, says that this is not a rehearsal. To me that means, today counts. My efforts today are my opportunity. My friend Earl Maxwell works joyfully and tirelessly to help nonprofits succeed in their missions. My friend Jeri Saper spends a lot of her life working for justice, though she has at least one other full time job. My friend Bunny Oliver has spent thousand of hours working for a colonia in distant Honduras because she cares about the people in that place, who now have education and hope. I hesitate to name people, because there is no stopping once you start the list. I see our kids' generation volunteering for causes that make life better for all of us. And I see so many people who make it their personal mission in life to treat others well, to be honest and generous in their dealing with others.
This is where I find the light. This is where I find the antidote for crippling fear and uncertainty, in the light that is shining out from the lives of people who care to live their belief that we are all in this together. That what we say and do matters. That who we are is what we do. Finding hope in the work of our hands and minds for good does not take away the grief for the little girl in the refrigerator. It does not take away the horror of genocide or the disbelief of gunmen in schools. There will never be enough balm in Gilead to cover the grief of those in the path of madmen. But the effort is our only option. The fight for justice and mercy is not a luxury, it is the only thing that will keep us going as a people. To cave to the darkness and hide in our privileged good fortune will ensure that darkness wins. Do justice. Love mercy. Live kindness. Walk humbly with your God. Ancient words of wisdom that are as important today as ever in history. Words of light to overcome the shadows and utter blackness of despair.