I lay abed last night in the starless night that covered league upon league in satin black on my side of the world. My consciousness was wandering somewhere in the misty borderland between sound asleep and “awake but don’t want to be.” I was searching for a way back into the forest I’d walked out of in the land of dreams, but couldn’t find the right path. I didn’t want to look at my phone to learn that it was 0343, so I decided to just lie there listening to the rain. No, I thought, this is not another blasted hurricane. This is just the first winter storm, for it is now December in the waking world. The rain fell hard and steady on the roof for a time, then, feigning indifference, whispered as soft as silk, before once more attacking the roof and walls with a vengeance. In a lull between assaults, the dark and sodden landscape was startlingly lit from pole to pole by the flash of sheet lightening followed four seconds later by the deep rolling caissons of advancing thunder. I felt it in my bones. Halfway through the rumble I was a boy again and could hear my Grandmother’s voice in the kitchen at the farm. She was saying, “Thunder in the first storm of December–that’s the old year’s back breaking.” In the silence that followed the thunder I thought, “¡Ya era hora, maldita sea! ” (roughly translated, “Well it’s about d— time!”). For if this old year was a horse, I’d trade the horse off for a mangy yellow dog…. And shoot the dog. Now I apologize straight off if I’ve already offended someone’s sensitivities with old sayings about breaking backs and shooting dogs, but I don’t make these expressions up, you know. The people of my grandmother’s day did. And, they saw the world through a harsher lens, the crucible of hardship. My Grandmother’s generation dealt with, lived through and was shaped by: the 1918/19 Spanish Flu Pandemic, and the decade of the Great Depression, with two existentially threatening World Wars as book-ends on either side. Their hardship shaped their collective character and produced what has been broadly called “the Greatest Generation.” Well, Church, I think we can consider this past one a year of character development. I probably don’t need to rehearse what a character-building year 2020 has been with its all too real novel coronavirus pandemic, AND it’s surreal arbitrary and internally inconsistent governmental responses to same which all too quickly and all too easily morphed from emergency measures for the public good to become all about the exercise of power by the state ( like” we might get overrun with Covid so let’s take living people off of ventilators and let them die”, or “let’s force Covid cases into nursing homes”, or “you can’t gather at a restaurant unless you’re me & my pals”, or ”your business has to shut down until I say so,,, but you have to open to cut my hair”, or “ you can’t buy vegetable seeds, but you can buy alcohol” or “you can ride the subway but you can’t go to church”…. AND the church goes along with it. ??? ) AND its mob violence mayhem, looting, and vandalism praised as free speech, and free speech censored as dangerous, censored by self-appointed technocrats, AND If it is forbidden to even investigate the question, “were the national elections of the once greatest Republic systematically suborned? , then Democracy indeed “ Dies in Darkness“, for they say, the Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth.”
Every week some new disaster, some new outrage, some new …..Hurricane???, yeah, don’t forget about the hurricanes: Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, we ran out of names and went nine storms deep into the Greek Alphabet. The sensationalism of the storms predictably fell off the news cycle in a few days, but the damage is done to HONDURAS, already on its knees from Covid Lockdown… the HUNGER AND THE HOMELESSNESS AND THE HOPELESSNESS will last for years. Even the U.N./W.H.O. has estimated that 130 million additional people will starve this year as a result of the economic damage resulting from the lockdowns…. Most of them in the undeveloped/ poor nations… Nations like Honduras. 130,000,000 additional people in this beleaguered world, ONE HUNDRED TIMES THE NUMBER OF (tragic) COVID DEATHS will starve this year, due to unnecessary governmental lockdowns. Enough said.
The Ex-Saopin Bridge Over El Rio Congrejal, east edge of La Ceiba, Hurricane EtaNo, I don’t need to rehearse it… and you may not agree with all the fine print perspective therein (why do you think it’s in fine print?), so I just lined it all out. But you’ve got to admit, this has been one awful year behind us, and many of the things and people and institutions we assumed we could count on have been weighed and found wanting. 2021 may prove to be an acceleration of our pell-mell race to the Great Tribulation, or it may just be a long slog of clean-up from 2020. God only knows. But the questions I hear behind the fear are “What do we do about it?” and “Where do we go from here?” There I think I can help, for I heard the answer to those two questions in the silence that followed the thunder. What do we do about it? Many of you are already doing it. You have been walking it out through this most difficult year. I know that most of you have been hurt and threatened and challenged and lost a lot, just as much as anyone else. But it has been my privilege to watch so many people walk though this trying year with courage and faith, generosity and grace…. To act like Christians are supposed to. One of the ways you have done so is that from the depth of your own need you have continued to support this work–in gifts, in prayer and in deed. Thank you. You have said like the Apostle Paul to Timothy: “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” I heard the answer echoed in the silence that followed the thunder. The voice, though, was not my Grandmother’s; it was my Grandfather’s. I would often work beside him tilling what seemed to be some endless row in his Great Garden, or chopping thistles in an arc across a field that led to the horizon…. At least that’s how it seemed to a small boy struggling under the summer sun. Sometimes he would catch me out of the corner of his eye gazing wistfully off into the distance wondering where this row ended. Not being much given to long speeches to little boys, he would keep chopping or digging or mowing and just say: “Son, keep at it. We’ll get there.” That’s what I heard in the silence. “Just keep at it. We’ll get there.” If you’d rather hear it from a higher authority than my Grandfather (as if there could be one), perhaps you’d settle for the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal 6:9). And where do we go from here? Where should we be sometime next year? I heard that too… in the words of a song a long way off in the distance, back in the land of dreams. I could hear them singing more clearly as I left behind the rain and thunder and followed the song back into the forest. There is an old hymn the Carter Family used to sing, “In the Highways.” The rendition I heard them singing, though, over there in the land of dreams, was the one I first heard sung in Swahili by the church at Tenwek. The verses ask the question “Where will you be when the Lord comes back?” The chorus is the response to the question: “Nita fanya casi ya bwana” (“I’ll be somewhere working for my Lord”). That was the song. I can still hear that church full of strong voices singing out in four-part harmony. They were lifting up to the rafters their unshakable Faith, and how they were committed to walk it out. They were singing out their Hope. So where should we go from here? And where should we be when He returns? The song answers its own question: “When he calls me I will answer. I’ll be somewhere working for my Lord.” But why should we do that? Isn’t it all pointless anyway? or pre-destined? or hopeless? Again, I submit a higher authority, this time from the Apostle Peter’s first General Epistle: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1: 3-5). It has never been more evident that we are entering “the last time.” This is a quite a fearful pronouncement. But this is quite a Hope. It is a Hope that, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us,” a hope from which we cannot be separated, a hope that does not fail or betray us, that cannot be co-opted or corrupted. It is the same Hope that was born in a manger at the beginning of this present age. It is the same Hope who will return in power at the end of this age….very soon… to bring to light what is done in the darkness, to set straight the bent and crooked, to heal the sick and mend the broken. So, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong” (I Corinthians 16:13). And, “Keep at it. We’ll get there.”
For, μαραναθά Maranatha! The Lord is returning.
That is our Hope.
Go tell it on the mountain.
God’s Grace In Christ Jesus, Jefferson McKenney, M.D.