“Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” – 1 Peter 3:14-16
This passage jumped out at me from the readings celebrating the martyrs of Uganda, today. It is challenging. Gently and respectfully it lures me, as it requests that I lure others, into an examination of what moors me and what seeds my outlook on the world.
How does sanctifying Christ express itself as hope? It’s hard to talk about this, and complicated. For instance, there is prayer. I know that prayer does not necessarily lead immediately to illness being cured, problems being solved, refugees being sheltered and fed, or suffering being alleviated. And yet I am convinced that prayer makes a huge difference to any situation. It does something; it changes things. I know that it does.
Or there is worship. It is my conviction that worship, when it expresses the sentiments of the soul, turns lives around, untangles psychological knots, and brings wholeness – all by itself. Over time what is stuck or frozen begins to thaw and move and grow again. I have seen that happen, and so I know it to be true.
And then there’s spiritual community. When people gather to explore questions of meaning, their lives are transformed. This doesn’t happen right away, either. But the ongoing experience of listening and being heard is healing and revolutionary.
At a deeper level, there is this. In each bend of grass under the rain, in each fork of dew-laden branches, in each bird song and breath of wind, in the patterns in each mysterious cloud and in each exquisite pane of frost there is Christ. Christ occupies the clods of ground and the bright golden leaf that lies on them, the ant that crawls out from under the leaf, and me. In all that is joyful and celebratory, Christ shines out from the heaven within. In everything that suffers, in every need, in every human frailty, Christ is a partner, the one who suffers with us. Christ is the Love that pulses through the universe. Christ is the incarnate God.
I am more of a subversive than a martyr; I don’t think it’s in me to die for any creed. If you don’t agree with what I say, that’s fine. Like Galileo I will probably recant. But I might hand you an icon and ask that you gaze at it for awhile. Or I might sit with you while you weep.
I’m more likely to be the sneaky householder with the secret room, helping the persecuted escape to safety. Or I’m likely to be the one muttering as I walk along beside the river, praying. I’m the one sitting up with someone who has night terrors, or the one helping a friend to find the healing ritual that speaks just to her. I’m more likely to tell you a story than to defend anything.
But now, as we sit together, you and I, in the virtual space of this reflection, let me challenge you. Imagine that you have just reaffirmed that Christ is Lord in your heart. Now imagine that somebody comes up to you and demands, “Why are you so hopeful?” What would you say?
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.
Image: “Karoli Lwanga and his followers” by Albert Wider – Licensed under Copyrighted free use via Commons