This past summer I had to make a hard choice: to continue to live with my dysfunctional esophagus or try to figure out a better way. I chose to take a different way. It was not easy as many of you reading this know, but after having the surgery and the doctors telling me what they found, it really was the right choice. Especially with the complications that arose, my strong health going into the procedure really paid off for a strong recovery that seems to be going well. Though I am still not where I need to be to come back to work full time, I should get there in a few weeks.
Going into the surgery, I knew that no matter how clear any surgery would be, pain and complications would follow. And they have; a leak and a collapsed lung set me back a bit, but that is why I took the entire month of October off. Now that I am mending at home, with a minor thorn in my side, I am building back my strength, and should be on track to preach again starting Sunday, November 4.
For a lot of reasons, I was cut off from news while I was in the hospital. Hospitals are one of the few places where you have to be selfish and focus on the step-by-step recovery needed to get out, so added worry is never good. Unfortunately, this meant that I did not learn of all of the disasters and tragedies until coming home. Hearing about the shootings and fires, on top of the hurricanes that happened before I went on medical leave, has really made me think and wonder how do we approach a world that seems so chaotic!
For me, there are two very important things that we need to understand about the chaos that is happening in the world today. First, is the understanding that we live in an imperfect world. If there is any real take away from the story of Adam and Eve, it is that they chose to leave paradise and perfection by not accepting the edicts of God. This choice thrust them into a world that was not stable. It was a world that included pain, fear, hate, destruction, and death. But even though they were cast into this imperfect world, God did not abandon them.
The second and probably most important thing we need to remember about the chaos of the world today is the truth that God is with us. In the midst of anything that happens within this life, we are not alone, but God is there. Many scholars, myself included, point to the book of Genesis as making the point that in the midst of a crazy, violent, changing world, God is not only very present, but is constantly trying to guide us to a better way, giving us hope and direction for a better life.
There is a lot to fear in this world, but we have to make a choice: do we live into the fear or do we live into life? I remember a pastor from the inner-city of Chicago once talked about doing ministry with a group of rival gang members. As he spoke, he told us about the fear, but he also told us about the comfort he had, knowing that God was using him and that if he let his actions be guided by God, not his fear, he would be able to make a difference. And he did, negotiating a truce between those two gangs.
In the midst of disasters like fires, hurricanes, and so on, it is really hard to see God, because unlike violence, we don’t have anyone to blame, and often we turn to God as the one to blame. But the fact that is so true is that it is not God who causes disasters, it is this imperfect world that is always in a cycle of creation, destruction, and re-creation. As people, our difficulty is seeing the re-creation that comes from the destruction, because often the destruction is so overwhelming. But again, we have a choice of what we live for: are we going to live for what was, or do we live for what will be?
As people of faith, we are called to live, no matter what comes our way. We do live in an uncertain and changing world, with people who are not always stable and who make threats. But we have to make a very real choice: do we live into our fear, or do we live the life God calls us to live? This is the choice, and this is the call.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen