In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. ✣
We deliver this morning the following prayer: “O Almighty God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast ordained strength , and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths.”
There are many levels in which this prayer at first may make us feel uncomfortable, or at the very least compels us to sit upward and to challenge our own preconceptions about what is just and good in the world. How may there be good in an event as awful as the slaughter of innocent children? How may we say that our God is a good God, when He allows such transgressions among the most innocent and vulnerable?
I remember once as a child myself innocently asking a neighbor friend of ours if she believed in God. She was a lively, engaging woman, full of laughter, and always with a friend or two beside her. Indeed, on each Easter Sunday, she would dress in a pink bunny costume, her ears flapping in the wind, and go from home to home in our neighborhood bringing a small gift to each doorstep. Nevertheless, I had heard through the proverbial grapevine that she did not go to Church; and at that age, in my own innocence, I presumed that everyone went to Church. Therefore, the question percolated now and then in my own mind; and when the opportunity arose, I asked her: “Do you believe in God?”
She looked at me, a bit startled at my straightforwardness, and then answered me: “No,” she said. “I do not, because if there was a good God, there would not be so much evil in this world.”
That is a refrain, which we Christians have all heard. It is a common enough denial of the power of our faith in a living, good God. Indeed, as the onlookers derisively say in Psalm 22: “He trusted in the Lord, that He would deliver him; let Him deliver him, if He will have him.”
Certainly, we must agree that evil is not the same as good, that the slaughter of innocent children is not in itself a good action. Nevertheless, our insight as Christians, which we may come to through the efficacious working of the Holy Spirit within us, is that God is so powerful He may use the occasion of evil for a much greater good, that indeed He does more than just balance the celestial scales, He tips them decidedly, and in the fullness of time totally, in the direction of loving redemption and of everlasting life.
This is where we differ from our counterparts in the East. For them, life is about karma: the evil that a man suffers now allows for the good that he will experience later; the evil that another man does now allows for an evil of equal merit to fall upon him later. In the grand scheme of the cosmos, the yin and the yang serve to balance one another; good does not triumph, at best it holds its own as an everlasting balance on the evil.
That is not so from our Christian perspective. For we know in faith that good does triumph and in a manner which will become manifest for all to see, whether they desire to see it or not. As we read further in Psalm 22: “But thou art he that took me out of my mother’s womb; thou wast my hope, when I hanged yet upon my mother’s breasts. I have been left unto thee ever since I was born; thou art my God even from my mother’s womb.”
Even in the most vulnerable moment in our lives, when we have no capacity to do anything on our own but suckle upon the breast of our mother, we are with the all powerful, loving God, living in His protection and for His glory. Furthermore, even then, we have hope. We all know how difficult it is at times to maintain an earnest hope, when there are tragedies in our lives, or when matters do not go forward as initially we would have desired. We have all said at one time or another: This person or situation is hopeless; or even, in those moments of real despair, I am hopeless. Nevertheless, in faith, we discern that, even when we have nothing at all, not even the capacity to stand upright, we not only have hope, but God Himself is that hope.
If we may have hope in such a state of helplessness, and if the all powerful, loving God Himself not only is the target of that hope, but indeed is that hope, then the world, and each and every one of our precious lives, has a destiny that far transcends merely achieving some sort of karmic balance between good and evil.
“This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” The true saying is worthy to be received, and we men are worthy to receive it, because God gives us in our greatest vulnerability, even unto death itself, the hope in everlasting life. He gives us power, that we may live life most abundantly; he gives us power, that we may be perfect, even as Our Father in heaven is perfect. We have more than just hope; we have the power to walk in that hope, to follow Him in his way.
What does God ask in return? Merely that we love Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and that we love our neighbors as ourselves, that is to say that we approach His Kingdom with the loving innocence of children, that innocence which has not yet learned to shut out that hope which He freely gives to us. It is, in our present state, a most simple but impossible task, because we have lost our innocence and therefore live under judgment. Our only recourse is Christ Jesus Himself, who reminds us that with God indeed all things are possible and that we men may live in good cheer, and in loving hope still, because He has overcome the world.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. ✣