What could make a cold and snowy winter better than watching the Winter Olympics? Sochi has been marred by every sort of controversy, from the minutiae of poorly constructed restrooms to flagrant human rights issues. However, the Olympiad itself still stands as a testament to competition and the joy the games. Last night, US Champion Shaun White prepared to get a record-breaking three gold medals in the snowboard halfpipe; alas, it was not meant to be. Americans who had avoided the spoiler-rich social media updates were stunned as our champion took fourth place and did not take his place on the podium. It was not the ending we had in mind.
This day, this week and this month are all similarly filled with celebration. Today we celebrate President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and the leadership he gave to a nation at war with itself. This week we celebrate Valentine’s Day, the feast of love and commitment. This month we celebrate Black History Month, acknowledging the rich diversity of people who have enhanced our minds, souls and lives.
And yet, we have not yet reached the ending I had in mind. When I celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s life, I do so recognizing that the nation remains ideologically fragmented, and the Church has followed in kind. After the pain of the Civil War, I would have had a more hopeful ending in mind. When I celebrate Valentine’s Day, I recognize that for many, love has been lost or has even given way to abuse and neglect. Even worse is that the Church has been a part of this too. I would have had a different ending in mind. When I celebrate Black History Month, I am painfully aware of the racism present not only in our hearts but in our societal structures. Once again, the Church has far from clean hands. With all the advancements of the Civil Rights Movement, I would have had a different ending in mind. In seeing the brokenness all around, is it possible that today is the day the Lord has made? Is it still possible to rejoice and be glad in it?
Today I celebrate in a minor key. Today is a day worthy of praise and lament, to be grateful and to cry out “How long?” The words of Prof. Tom Boogaart still echo in my mind- “Lament is the surest expression of faith.” As Lent approaches in only a couple weeks, Christians who follow the liturgical calendar are reminded of our ashes and our need for a Savior. And while I would have hoped we would have been further along by now, I also hold onto the hope that the ending our Savior has in mind is not the ending I have in mind, but is far beyond my expectations or imagination. Perhaps we join the protest song of Habakkuk 3:16-19 “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”