To a people called United Methodist. Grace and peace in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

October 29 — December 14 — April 15.

New Jersey/New York — Sandy Hook — Boston.

Superstorm — Shootings — Bombing

One could add other dates, sites and events to these where fear, death and destruction changed lives, landscapes and the way we think about our times.

I call upon each of us to pray for the victims and their families who suffered death and injury at the Boston Marathon. This senseless killing is not of God but a sign of a fallen world where evil rises against the force of God’s beloved community. Our hearts and love go out to all of the families who have suffered in this tragedy.

In my prayers for the victims, I meditated on Psalm 121 – I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. Say to those with a fearful heart, be strong, your God will come and save you.

Recently, a pastor asked me if the tragedies we are experiencing are signs of the end times. The end times is a metaphor for when the world will come to end as some read in the scriptures. It is clear to me that we are living in end times. The world as we know it is coming to an end. Parts of creation that we have taken for granted for so long are fragile. Areas we once saw only for our enjoyment are calling for creative care that respects and works with nature rather than only seeing nature for our own enjoyment.

Liberties and security that we once took for granted are at risk. We have vacillated between dialogue and entrenchment, peace and war to settle deep division in our society and world and find that neither resolves the ageless question of good and evil.

For me it all became clearer as I watched the images on the news of the blasts in Boston. After the third or fourth time I watched it, I noticed a pattern. At the time of the blasts I saw people running from the blasts AND I saw other people running toward the blasts. I saw some people shrink in a crouching motion and I saw a police officer who actually made his body bigger to shield people from the blasts. Which are you?

In life, I watch some people run from the great challenges of our time and I watch others with faith, daring and courage step into the breach. Today, I watch some people shrink before challenges to our faith and creation while others rise up with faith.

Today is a day for prayer and healing. I invite you today and in your churches this weekend to pray for people who are suffering and mourning. But tomorrow is a day for you to ask yourself, will I move toward the challenge or run from or even just stand by and watch while our world groans with pain? Will your faith shrink when tested or will the God in you become larger so that the world sees and experiences a faithful witness.

This I can assure you, the world as we once knew it is no more. A way of life for the church, our society and creation itself has changed. Christian faith and experience today is more like the first century church experience. It calls for disciples to move toward the great challenges and to allow God to rise up within us. Our help is in the name of the Lord!

Keep the faith!

John Schol, Bishop
The United Methodist Church
Greater New Jersey Conference

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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...