I make my husband a little crazy by reading in bed for a few minutes each night before turning off my bedside light. Lately I've been reading Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris and savoring her essays on the difficult words in the vocabulary of faith. Last night I read her thoughts on one of the most difficult faith words for me--apocalypse. Like me Norris says she has a hard time with those whose approach to evangelism is to beat people verbally over the head with accusations of sinfulness and threats of hell-fire and damnation. I like Norris' reminder that the apocalyptic writings in the Bible were written to those who were marginalized by the larger culture in which they lived and who had little or no stake in the status quo. I especially like her argument that apocalyptic literature is about hope, the hope that "despite considerable evidence to the contrary, in the end it is good that will prevail." Thus the God who is promised at the end of the apocalyptic book of Revelation is one who will come to wipe all our tears away. What a beautiful and hopeful image!
As I struggle to write about another trip to Cuba with a group from our church in a way that will reach the hearts and minds of those who have not had the opportunity to visit with the Christians in that country, I find myself returning again and again to the hope and joy I experienced in the churches and in the lives of the individuals we met there. As Kathleen Norris so wisely writes, we humans seem to show our real strength best when we are faced with disaster--when our perpetual delusion of self-sufficiency is shattered, at least momentarily. That is when we can begin to see "what is possible in the new life we build from the ashes of the old." The Cuban Christians have learned to live faithfully in a society that has experienced radical changes in my lifetime and in a place where everyday life is difficult. And yet these faithful Christians joyfully demonstrate the kind of hope Norris writes about. Like the writers in the Bible who proclaimed hope in the midst of calamity, the Cuban Christians live out God's possibilities in the midst of incredibly difficult circumstances. I pray I will find the words to convey the hope that they have and the reason for that hope to those here who are in need of such promise, which on any given day is most of us.
Grace and Peace,