Marvin Repinski: Maybe just on the fringe of suffering

Published 5:52 pm Friday, April 8, 2022

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“I am forgotten like a dead man out of mind. I am as useless as a broken pot.” (The Bible, Psalm 31:12).

“Pilate therefore said to him (Jesus). ‘Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?’”

Note that Pilate, with the Roman authority in his circle, had the power and the decision-making that some Russian authorities have. Today, to squash, to trample others, is what ugly depraved minds would practice. We are now in political, geographical, military environments that are sadistic eruptions that have brought suffering to others.

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Lent is, among other facets, a reminder of how life can be mismanaged, fearful, abusive, and create the sorrow, grief and betrayal of others. Lent, we are reminded in many of our churches, is that the spiritual story is larger than a bullet or a cross! We live with the mystery of tears and notes of strength, grace and some endings that bring wholeness. This, I believe, is part of the stories of the great religions that were taught to me in a youth group at a Bible camp. I can’t forget.

Among spiritual leaders I gratefully count as friends are my pastor at First United Methodist Church, Pastor Donna Dempewolf and the lead priest at Austin’s St. Augustine Church, Father James Steffes. They have both revealed the personal answers to live above the wreckage of a lot of stuff! Our Austin First Church of Methodists and others (all are welcome), have initiated what is called a Back Pack Program. It is a way that says children and youth count for Jesus!

Father Steffes is in contact with multiple troubled, searching people who cherish his prayers and counsel. This religious leader that serves a wide circle of people, wrote in the Nov. 14, 2021 newsletter a statement that touches me. “At any moment, God presents something or someone dealing with a life-changing event or experience — all of those things that were so pressing and demanded my attention or stirred some noise commanding my time and energy, do not seem so important. This life is merely a gift to transition us to the next. We forget about our God who has blessed and gifted us with this life and who is the author of all life.”

I call attention to the NCAA Final Four basketball championships that Becky and I were enthusiastic about. We wriggle and gulp, share a pizza, and tense up for a team we may wish to win — or at least do well! But it is just part of our days. We are not consumed by basketball. We are glad for the athletic programs in our schools that may give legs to talent that works its ways into larger domains!

In the mix of our larger lives, we enjoy the satisfaction that comes pretty much out of the thoughtfulness and commitments of others. In that mix are those in poverty, rejection causing hurt, loss of loved ones, sickness, unemployment, a breakup of a romance or marriage, and the confusion of “why do I too often feel alone?” We can also live with pain on behalf of others who deal with the demons of drug abuse and alcoholism.

On April 9, many people aware of the name Dietrich Bonhoefer, can place his life in the arena of what is presently taking place in Ukraine and I, having roots in Poland, think of the thousands of refugees being cared for. A pastor of Lutheran churches in Germany during World War II, Bonhoefer’s opposition to the Nazis led to his arrest and imprisonment. He was killed by hanging in 1945. There are several of his writings — he being a skilled and deep scholar — still available in books published after his death. One may be puzzled by some of his thoughts. “We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”

The title I give this essay in regard to the suffering of most of us, is possibly only at the fringes of our lives. Yet we as a mature, compassionate person, may resolve in a Lenten season, to enlarge our care. We can, and possibly will, today, grant an affirmation from the Bible, Lamentations 3:22-23. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” An affirmation like this is a leap for me; a challenge. Shall we pray:

“God of all mercy, we confess that we have sinned against you,

opposing your will in our lives.

We have denied your goodness in each other, in ourselves,

and in the world you have created.

We repent of the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done,

and the evil done on our behalf.

Forgive, restore, and strengthen us through our Savior Jesus Christ,

That we may abide in your love and serve only your will. Amen.”