Comfort in Communion
Job 1:1; 2:1-10
Driving to worship on Sunday, I looked over the cliff a few kilometers from my church to see, hundreds of feet down, a battered and mangled bus on its side. I could see school uniforms, lunches and books scattered down the ravine. Seven dead children’s bodies had already been removed. Another fifty children were taken to hospital, many critical.
In seminary, ministry students study ‘theodicy’ – why and how God ‘allows’ human suffering. Of course, no amount of theological enlightenment fully prepares one to walk in partnership with a community that in the midst of tragedy asks the same question. As suggested by Job’s friends, sin is often blamed. The driver was speeding. A mechanic took a short cut. Someone passed on a corner. Corruption wastes money that should have been spent on road infrastructure. Historic injustices continue, perpetuating South Africa’s income disparity – the highest in the world.
At the iThafamasi Congregational Church, UCCSA where I serve as pastor, one must acknowledge that human sin exists and has consequences. But, the community asks, “How does God ‘allow’ children to suffer the sins of others?” In a community with no water, electricity, jobs, tarred roads – how much more suffering must a community endure? Children on a rare school trip, journeying to expand their minds in class and bodies in sport are suddenly dashed upon the rocks.
On Sunday, real life interrupted the lectionary. Questions were asked of me. I offered perspectives. Yet, I had only one answer: Holy Communion.
The mystery of Jesus Christ. God with us. Solidarity. Suffering transformed into healing through the Cross. Death to eternal life. Hope. And I pray, comfort.
Gracious God, thank you for those who send and for those who are sent. Thank you for binding us with others around the world through Jesus Christ and the Church, so that ‘we may all be one’. Amen.
Scott Couper, a member of First Congregational Church, Winter Park, Florida, serves with the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA). He assists the Inanda Seminary in strategic planning and serve as a management consultant. He also serves as pastor of the Thafamasi Congregational Church (UCCSA).