Wave After Wave

By Scott McClellan

Several weeks ago my family and I found ourselves downtown, and as we walked across a plaza we found ourselves at the JFK Memorial. I watched as one of my daughters bounded up to the structure, stood at its base, and marveled at its scale. Immediately I was confronted by the holy and heartbreaking collision of life and death and joy and horror, and I began to feel something in my chest that my head is still trying to understand.
Part of what it means to be alive, to draw breath in this beautiful and frightful creation, is to be haunted by wave after wave of loss. Sometimes the waves crash and spit and spray against the rocks of our hearts and minds. Sometimes the waves slide, smooth and fluid, across the surface of our conversations and screens. Either way, the waves come and we must reckon with our chronic condition: our capacity for destruction and decay far exceeds our ability to fix ourselves through creativity, reason, or sheer force of will.
People who should be alive today have instead been taken. Families that should be whole today have instead been hollowed. Communities that should be flourishing today have instead been wrecked.
Wave after wave.
Jordan Edwards. Janeera Gonzalez. Two tragedies so near to us that sit atop dozens and hundreds of others that haven’t garnered national attention this week. There are more I could name. There are more you could name. These amount to the steady output of a culture that breeds loss as a matter of course.
Wave after wave.
I wonder, what do you do with the waves when they come?
Personally, I’m often tempted to despair, which I’ve learned to mitigate through anger, rationalizing, or some good old-fashioned numbing. But Easter bears witness to another response, an antidote found in the grace and power of the risen Jesus. Easter bears witness to hope.
The text of our Easter Sunday message was written by a man well acquainted with loss to readers well acquainted with loss:

    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:3-6)

Although our bodies and souls bear the scars of grief—of the violence we’ve done and the violence done to us—we cultivate and possess and express the great joy that comes from resurrection hope. Because the world’s capacity for destruction and decay will not—can not—overcome the living hope to which we cling. We belong to the crucified and risen Jesus, who himself suffered horrific violence in order to make inexhaustible peace.
We’ve been given new birth into a living hope, and so we don’t run or hide from a world of loss, but rather we seek the kingdom of Christ in the midst of it all. May he rule and reign in our hearts, bruised and broken though they may be. May he rule and reign in our homes and in our fellowship, flawed though they may be. May he rule and reign in this city we love so much, wounded though it may be.
May present and future confrontations with loss lead us to our present and future hope, wave after wave. May the specter of death compel us toward missionary discipleship. May we be a transformed people who work and watch and pray for a transformed city.

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