What would a suffering God do about the ALS and water security challenges?
Today's service focussed a bit on Peter. He had correctly answered a question, regarding the identity of Jesus, put to him by Christ himself. On the heels of that success however, he rapidly experienced a failure, for he would not countenance the idea of Christ dying. To him, the Messiah was exalted, and had to stay exalted. God, by definition, could not suffer. Christ, of course, corrected him, for indeed, he was soon to be crucified.
As was pointed out during the sermon, we still tend to be very much like Peter. We rather like our Christ without the cross sometimes, even though we ourselves bear our crosses. That is our lot, not his, certainly. That way, this cross-less Christ can relieve us of our own burden, since in our minds, to follow him is to be similarly exalted. However, and on the contrary, the admonition of Christ is that we pick up our cross and follow him, for ahead of us, he bears his own also.
A God who suffers is a God accustomed to human grief and misery, and while his ways are not our own, and his thoughts not ours either, we can believe him capable of understanding and grace in the course of our very human challenges.
Which brings me to the question at the top of his missive. Before the service, I learned that my brother had taken up the ALS campaign challenge by dumping a pot of cold water over his head. He had then challenged me to do the same, which is the social and viral way in which the campaign has spread and has generated both publicity and funds for research into a cure for Lou Gehrig's disease. Right after the service, I learned that actor Matt Damon, similarly challenged, had noted the issue on the minds of some, that all these cold water dumps have now amounted to millions of litres in wasted water in the West, in a world in which millions go without, fall sick, or die in the bid for a clean water source. Mr. Damon decided that the best way to respond to the challenge was to use toilet water, and that is exactly what he did, on video.
As humans, even in caring about one blight, we are apt to inadvertently promote another. Ours is a world so throughly broken, even in all its beauty. A suffering God, however, understands the plight of both the infirm and the parched. The point, stated earlier, is thus further buttressed that his ways are indeed not our ways, and his thoughts aren't ours either. He can see through to both miseries, and we can but pray for his grace in addressing both. A suffering God then, is not the God of one, both the God of all. He is not a God that feels just your pain uniquely, but all pain, and we believe in so doing, works all things together for good.
As I pray for a cure for ALS, and for a world with water security for all, I just might follow Matt Damon's example in responding to my brother's challenge.