“For some, war leaves no choice; for others it makes choosing a must. A small gesture can yield irreversible consequences. It can either save a life or ruin it.” (A quote from the Schindler museum)
I am angry in Krakow. Always. Angrier than a Christian should be. Angry like I could punch someone. Ball up my weak little fist and throw it into somebody’s gut. Is that righteous anger? I don’t know. But I peer through a grimy little window in a wall somewhere in Schindler’s Factory at photos of men hanging by their necks.
I’ve seen that in my travels in Greece. Carcasses of meat in a Thessoloniki butcher’s window. And, this grimy window is a snapshot of another place and time when 6 humans took their last breath.
I am angry.
Because there are two men in the right corner of that ugly photo. They are smiling. Did you hear me? Smiling. Posing for the camera while dying men hang in the background. It is like a surreal, wide-eyed tourist photo snapped on the streets of Greece with the butcher shop in the background.
Later, when my pulse is slower, my computer registers an incoming message as I drink my latte in a quaint little Polish cafe.
It is a message from a far away place that rarely touches my comfortable coffee. But, today, it jerks me from my latte, sputtering, coughing because it tells of the beheadings of children. Five precious children who chose martyrdom instead of giving up Jesus. Children. Do you hear me? Children.
And ISIS left their parents alive. To watch. To drift at the edges of a shadow reality of a nightmarish life from which they can never awake.
And, I feel my fists balling up again into jettisons of fire.
I pull my sweet girls closer. Hug them a little tighter. Appreciate the smallest smile, funniest comment, and breathe a prayer of guilty thanks for a life that can enjoy these moments free of the lurking specter of death and evil beyond the door.
The email went viral as the missionary pleaded for prayer.
Do we understand how truly blessed we are? And, what does God mean for us to do with this blessed reality?
I believe that the Church is at a crossroads. We have been stuck here for some long time. I see the world waiting for us to act. Hoping that we will BE the Church. That we will set aside our comfort. Our pretty lives. Because there is NO conceivable reality where the beheading of children is an option.
Did I just write those words from my 21st century reality?
Did I just write the words ‘children beheaded’?
ISIS. Human Trafficking. Drugs. Alcohol. Divorce. Genocide. Death camps. Child soldiers.
This list is long. Too long. Individually, they are impossible. Corporately? We have a responsibility that crosses borders, gender, ethnicity, economic realities. We have a responsibility to learn to be holy present.
How much longer will Jesus wait for us to respond?
How much longer until the rocks cry out?
Because the Jewish hand that penned the quote on Schindler’s wall screams from his grave. Small gestures lead somewhere. Small gestures save lives. What is your small gesture today?
I am standing in a Polish courtyard in the shadow of Pope John Paul II’s former residence. In 1978, the Polish Communists finally let him return to his home for a short visit. To discourage Poles from attending the Mass over which he would preside, they made Sunday a mandatory work day. They shut down public transportation systems. They held school that day. They made it impossible and still, thousands of Poles showed up to hear their Polish Pope. It didn’t matter how long, or how hard, or how discouraged, or how tired, or how hungry, or how poor. They came. Two million Poles defiantly filled the square that day because they were starving for hope.
From the window, the Pope looked at the masses of Polish people waiting for spiritual encouragement in the midst of an oppressively bloody regime. He looked at the police waiting to brutally end the meeting. And he said,
And I cry — I who am a Son of the land of Poland and who am also Pope John Paul II — I cry from all the depths of this Millennium, I cry on the vigil of Pentecost:
Let your Spirit descend.
Let your Spirit descend and renew the face of the earth, the face of this land.
And the Communists scratched their heads.
Just one year later, Lech Walesa and the Solidarity Movement swept through Poland. It was the first wave of a storm that brought about the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.
Ten years later, the Berlin Wall fell.
What happens when the Church cries?
What happens when we the beheading of children or the sale of their bodies for sex or the victimization of the helpless moves the Church to cry?
I think God waits. I think he waits for us to care enough to sacrifice, to act, to pray, really pray.
I think God waits for us to cry.
To care enough to enter into this human suffering instead of turning channels and going to dinner.
What do we do about ISIS? Human Trafficking? Addictions? Death camps? Genocide? Divorce? Child soldiers?
I don’t know. I really do not know. But, maybe it begins with a Church on her knees. A church that is going. A church that does not stop and will not be content in her comfort.
Maybe it begins with children in Mosul, Iraq.