Five years ago I went to Spain after listening to a program on Cordoba – the city where for a time Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived in peace. I wanted to go and see this place, learn its history, be reminded of the possibility for peoples to live peaceably together. Two years ago I went to Istanbul thinking, “Let me go before it blows up like Iraq.” This year when my sister and I went to Paris, it never entered my mind to think that it too might explode.
It’s hard to sort through the different emotions Friday night’s attacks evoke: anger, sadness, fear. One can go on-line and read an ISIS manifesto called “The Management of Savagery/Chaos.” One of the listed goals is to “work to expose the weakness of America’s centralized power by pushing it to abandon media psychological war and the war by proxy until it fights directly.” An editorial in ISIS’ online magazine talks about destroying the gray zone between the Caliphate and the Infidel. In other words, they are trying to make the world black and white and force people to choose.
How we respond to this brutal act in Paris; how we respond to Syrian refugees; how we talk about Islam and Muslims is all crucial. I’m not here advocating a political policy though of course, there are implications there, but I am praying that who we are as people of God is not changed by ISIS and their beastly savagery.
We are those who proclaim the power not of the beast but of the Lamb. We forget, sometimes, that Jesus was an alternative power to Caesar – that Jesus proclaimed a reign over against Rome’s. We are followers not of worldly power and darkness but of the divine power that scatters the darkness and emanates light and love.
The story from the weekend that has stuck with me is a French mother talking about taking her daughter to one of the memorials. She said she didn’t talk to her daughter about the darkness but told her they were lighting a candle for hope.
In two weeks when we begin the season of Advent, we will do the same thing. We will light the first week a candle for hope; the second week a candle for peace; the next week a candle for joy; and the last week a candle for love as we prepare to celebrate the Light of God coming to live among us in Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.
- Pastor Dianne