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Through It All…

by Rev. Art Cribbs

      “If you had it all to do over again, would you do it the same way?”  

            A familiar question.  In response, whatever the “it” was, we may have said something along the lines of “I have no regrets.”  If pressed, though, we might well have added, “I wouldn’t want to live through ‘that’ again.”

Many of us have experiences we would rather forget, times when things did not turn out as we had planned or when we behaved in ways that embarrassed us and shamed our family’s name.  We don’t want to remember things we did or words we said in a moment of heated passion. 

            Have you been there?  Do you have something in your past you pray will never rear its head, secrets you suppressed in the hope they would never see the light of day?

            As difficult and challenging as times as are these days, in the not-too-distant future we may look back and think of this period as “the good ole days.”  That may be hard to imagine now as we struggle through the uncertainty of the economic meltdown.  But, ‘this too will pass’ and we will emerge from this special era with a sense of hope and newness. 

The problem is few of us can predict how long it will take before we get to the other side.  We don’t know what kind of condition we will be in to embrace new opportunities and situate ourselves in that reality.  It is the not knowing what all of this will bring that keeps us pondering without ease.  Where is the prophet today who can tell us what is really going on and how we should adjust?

            Nearly six hundred years BCE people who were captured in Israel and taken into exile in Babylon lost control of their fate and had to learn how to settle in a strange land where their religion could not be practiced openly and their language was not easily understood.  They had to adjust to a foreign way of life.

            More recently, the trans-Atlantic slave trade uprooted Africans and forced them to endure the long, murderous voyage from everything familiar to the hostilities of involuntary servitude in an environment void of appreciation and gratitude.  Their ways of worship and cultural integrity were compromised and diminished to accommodate social structures that denied their humanity.  Cries for salvation and liberation seemed vacant as days rolled into weeks, months and years without relief.  “How long, O God, must we endure?”  The wails from their wretched, scorched throats in the dry lands of false liberty did not end their torment.

            Even today the voices of immigrants and refugees who are labeled “illegal” can be heard screaming for compassion and understanding as their plight is often misrepresented and misinterpreted as fodder to fan flames of fear.  Does God care about them? 

They wonder if anybody is listening and if someone will run to their rescue.  Their long, treacherous treks across blazing deserts and through high, windswept mountains render many of them wasted and incapacitated as they stretch in prayer for divine or human aid.  Successful arrivals in new places (in search of fresh starts to salvage their meager possessions and provide for families back home) too often result in disappointment and heart ache.  Worse, instead of finding hospitality, they encounter brutal rejection and ostracism.  The land of golden opportunity and hope is corroded with anger, malice and fear.

            Yet, through it all, God remains the ultimate arbitrator who commands the final outcome. When hardship and disappointment dominate our lives, it is our trust in God that sustains us even as it sustained others who walked life’s path in days and years past. 

Today’s prophet says, “Keep the faith” and never give up.  God will lead us on and bring us to a place and time where comfort and peace will prevail.  God will carry us through this special era.  That is the Good News.

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Rev. Dr. Arthur Cribbs is Senior Minister at San Marino Congregational United Church of Christ

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