Author: Chad Hyatt
Reflection: v. 15, ‘repent and believe in the good news’
The date of Kristallnacht—when Nazis violently attacked German Jews, breaking glass in shops and burning synagogues to the ground—is written in the margins of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Bible at Psalm 74.8: ‘They said in their hearts we’ll kill all of them together! They burned all of God’s meeting places in the land.’ He also marked the next verse, which reads in part: ‘We don’t see our own signs anymore; no prophet is left.’ That simple act—a scribbled date, a highlighted verse—shows the witness of a faithful disciple. I see someone prayerfully wrestling, trying to make sense of the chaos that was engulfing his world. And it reminds me that it just isn’t possible to believe in the God of the Bible—the God of the Incarnation—and hide our heads from our own history-in-the-making, even as the whirlwind we have sown swirls violently around us. Perhaps we wish we weren’t called to times such as these, but the times call us nevertheless. This is how it must be—if we are to be authentically faithful. We are called to embody the gospel in history. In the final analysis, this is what it means to ‘repent and believe the good news.’ As I write this, the many layers of my clothing are wet, and I can’t quite get warm or shake the chill, despite the steaming black coffee in front of me. Why? Because we were open this rainy winter day, just as we have been every day of the pandemic, out in our own urban wilderness. But this day, my damp clothing reminds me of the grace of Christian baptism—waters that may indeed ‘chill my body but not my soul,’ as the old song says. To follow Jesus is to be where human beings are suffering, standing together as beneath the cross. To embody the gospel is compassionately caring for one another and resisting the violence of hateful words or ugly guns—or the structures within the systems that cause such suffering in the first place. With simple acts like these, we embody the gospel of Jesus with our own flesh. With works of mercy, we take into our own hands the benevolent kingdom Jesus promised is already at hand, if only we dare reach out.
Prayer God of the Incarnation, help us embody your mercy in these times.