Sometimes I like routines. They help me remember what I need to do, when I need to do it, especially in the morning when I’m barely awake enough to do anything. The familiar patterns of routine bring comfort, and predictability makes life easier. And let’s be honest, the easier, the better. Right? Maybe not.
Maybe that’s why people were always getting mad at Jesus; he was really good at disturbing patterns, upsetting routines, and calling people to the path less traveled—working on the Sabbath, breaking bread with the wrong people, questioning authority, contradicting strongly held teachings, forgiving those who deserved punished, and all but guaranteeing suffering and hardships. Jesus was unpredictable. Maybe that’s why he described the Spirit of God like the wind—you don’t know where it comes from, or where it’s going—as it blows through your life.
But Jesus wasn’t trying to cause problems for the sake of being a troublemaker. Sure he stirred things up, but he did so because things had become some common, comfortable and routine; spiritual vitality was stagnant; routine had bred comfort, and comfort produced complacency. It can be said Jesus’ ministry was one of “comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable.”
Today, (September 30th) marks the tenth anniversary of that horrible day when Charles Roberts barricaded himself inside a one room school house in Lancaster, PA, and shot and killed five Amish girls before taking his own life. Talk about how unpredictable life can be. Who could have ever imagined such tragedy? In the wake of such pain our prayers were for Christ to comfort those who were so heavily afflicted.
Then I listened to an interview with Terri Roberts, the mother of Charles Roberts. She described how, in the wake of such tragedy, the Amish community’s response was that of forgiveness for Charles, and how they embraced his family. In the aftermath of the pain perpetrated by her son, she said, “we had a very private funeral for our son… as we went to the gravesite, we saw thirty to forty Amish start coming out from around the sight of the graveyard, and they surrounded us like a crescent, and love just emanated from them.” She described how she would never forget the devastation caused by her son, and how it is forever embodied in the life of Rosanna, now 15; a young lady who suffered head injuries the day of the attack, and is now tube-fed, in a wheel chair, suffering seizures, and forever changed. For ten years now, Terri has visited Rosanna once a week and helps care for her—feeding her, bathing her, reading to her, and more. One of the Amish fathers recently noted, “none of us would have ever chosen this, but the relationships that we have built through it… you can’t put a price on that.” Terri said, “Their choice to allow life to move forward, is quite a healing bond for us, and it’s quite a message the world needs.”
They chose to allow life to move forward through love and forgiveness. I don’t know about you, but this afflicts my natural tendencies. It would be easier to let anger, fear, and uncertainty drive the patterns of life. But the Amish Community and the Roberts family didn’t do that. And neither did Jesus. Troublemaker!
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Don Long