To see the devastation caused by natural disaster and say: ‘The Lord reigns!’ To see the bullet and the bomb tear into people’s lives and say: ‘The Lord reigns!’ To see someone we love slowly but inexorably diminished by illness and say: ‘The Lord reigns!’ The words may turn to ashes in our mouths but these are the words that faith demands.
This is the challenge that faced the ancient people of Israel as they were overwhelmed by injustice, cruelty and personal tragedy. But still the message comes through from those who had a care for their souls: ‘The Lord reigns!’ They believed in a God who had revealed Himself in the midst of a suffering world and whose good and loving purpose was continuing to unfold.
How to say this to people whose lives have come apart without sounding glib and perhaps even shallow? But when we turn to the Cross we see a God who is present in suffering and who is working through suffering to establish His good and loving purpose. We turn to the Apostle Paul who looked out at the world and thought of a woman in labour, suffering, but in the end presented with new life (see Romans 8: 22-23).
The playwright Dennis Potter once said: ‘People think Christianity is the bandage. It is not. It is the wound.’ I am not entirely sure what he meant by this. But something within me responds to it. I cannot completely deny it since it was from the wounds of His Son that God made possible renewal for humankind. It is from the wounds of His Son that we can see our suffering deepening our discipleship. It is in the wounds of His Son that we can say: ‘The Lord reigns!’
1 The Lord is king, he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed, he is girded with strength.
He has established the world; it shall never be moved;
2 your throne is established from of old;
you are from everlasting.
3 The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring.
4 More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters,
more majestic than the waves of the sea,
majestic on high is the Lord!
5 Your decrees are very sure;
holiness befits your house,
O Lord, for evermore.