Amidst the Forces of Death

Amidst the Forces of Death

By Rev. Noriel C. Capulong, Senior Pastor, Silliman University Church 

(Sermon delivered on August 7, 2016 at the Silliman University Church.) 

Hosea 4:1-3; Mark 8:34-36

We are now entering what we can refer to as the Founders Day month, perhaps the most awaited month in the whole school year and the one that stirs up the highest level of excitement in the whole campus. At the same time, in the UCCP calendar we are also observing during the month of August, Mission emphasis month. And here in the church we are also putting into high gear our preparations for the Centennial celebration of Silliman University church. We have also just wrapped up our celebration of the University Christian Life Emphasis Month with its theme on Living Life with Jesus even as our Founders Day and Church Centennial theme is: “Via, Veritas, Vita, Now and Always.” The way, the truth and the Life.

Perhaps we can say that witnessing to the life- giving way and truth which is Jesus, which is the very motto of this university is, and should be the very mission of this university and this church, for after all, they are both products of mission.  It is a mission that is itself life giving, in a world that is constantly confronted and threatened by the forces of death and falsehood.

Our recent UCLEM theme focused on life, the way to live our life in this world is to live it with Jesus. Yet even as we strive for life, we know that we are always surrounded by forces of death, destruction and decay. The reality of death is always before us, what with the rise of extra judicial killings all around us, the revelations about top officials in the military and in government being involved in the death dealing illegal drugs, the still unresolved cases of corruption in the highest levels of government, the breakdown of basic law and order in many places, the watering down of basic religious and family based values, with separations, unresolved conflicts, violence and victimization of the spouse still very much a serious problem in our society.

Some people simply try to preserve their life on their own terms but in the process, they lose and even destroy it. Securing our lives on our own terms and not on God’s own terms will only lead to destruction. Living only for the self can only lead to breakdown in human relationships and values, there is also a corresponding breakdown in the way we care for our environment as we lose our sense of responsibility for others and for our planet. Destruction of lives goes along with the destruction of our environment.

This is actually the scenario described in our text from the book of the prophet Hosea. This could be one of the most dreary portrayal of the forces of death in their time and which remains very real and happening in our time. The text is actually serving as a mirror being brought up before us, enabling us to see the terrible things going on in our lives, in our relationships, in our society, in our land and in our whole environment.

It shows us what is wrong and what needs to be corrected in our life and in our faith practice today.

The prophet is actually echoing an accusation coming from God, as he decries the actual breakdown of moral order, of civility and disrespect of moral boundaries in the society. Cursing, lying, killing, adultery and the rise of violence abound. Thus “bloodshed follows bloodshed.” An atmosphere of impunity prevails. 

It is as if there no longer any law to be observed. It is as if there is no longer any covenant with God that is to be respected. It is as if there is no longer any code of conduct that should govern the behavior and actions of the people. It has become a society of the lawless and its people have become worshippers of the gods of chaos, violence, death and disorder and have turned their backs on the God of order, the God of light and life.

There could be this other god or gods many people today have learned to worship and adore. It is the god represented by money and profit and the god represented by the gun, both of which can have power to destroy and even kill for one’s own survival and vested interest. Many have recognized them as gods that has the power of life and death. And many people who possess a gun could feel like being a god himself, determining and even deciding who will live and who will die.

Guns and most other weapons, are all basically intended to kill and injure or disable a person or bring about the permanent subjugation of a person or of a people. Nations and their armies arm themselves to the teeth, some with the most advanced and sophisticated weaponry that can ever be assembled, always ready to fight and kill their supposed enemies.

The world and our society has become a place where supposed enemies abound and therefore, violence and death abounds. We seemed to have developed a culture where weapon possession, gun wielding has become an expression of power and authority that can be asserted and resorted to when reason and dialogue no longer work.

Thus we are thrown in a situation where victims of violence become the daily fare in our news reports both here and even in other countries like the US, where reports of multiple fatal shooting incidents have become very common.

From a culture of death, we are drawn into accepting a culture of war. We are made to accept the inevitability, the necessity, the justifiability of wars that had to be waged against so called terrorists, insurgents, rebels, revolutionaries and religious fanatics.

And so we now have a world where people are defined as to whether they are enemy or friend and there is no more room for compassion, for one to  reach out even to an enemy who is suffering. Some would even suggest that enemies should be bombed to oblivion with the most sophisticated weapons they have, using everything in our arsenal. In the process, much of the land is also destroyed, not just the people in them, but also the rest of their surroundings, with their animals, their farms and crops and trees along with their water sources.

As we destroy each other, we also destroy our very own world. In the process we bring our existence to the edge of chaos and utter destruction. The prophet Hosea says, “ There is no more faithfulness, no more compassion, no more knowledge of God in the land.” No more fear of God, no more sense of accountability to a higher power. For each one who possesses a weapon of death feels so powerful already so that to take the life of another is but normal.

Something has gone wrong somewhere, according to the prophet, where values and perspectives have become distorted, where wrong has become right and right has become wrong, when the absurd has become normal and the immoral and unethical has become acceptable standard of behavior. We need to take a serious look at what the prophets have been saying and what Jesus have been proclaiming in his day, that we are all accountable for the life and welfare of each of our neighbor, each of our brother and sister, no matter who they are, no matter what their race, or color, or creed and religion they profess. Unless we begin to care more for each other and for our world, we could be facing more the prospect of the god of death and violence dominating our lives rather than enjoying the fellowship with the God of life, abundant life.

But there is one very important gift given to us by our God, according to the prophet, this is the gift of choice, the power to choose, to decide and act. The power to choose the things that contribute to life, peace, justice, truth and accountability in our land and to oppose those things that contribute to death, violence, injustice, falsehood and environmental destruction. It is time for the church, to become a force for what is right, a force for life, by its willingness to lose it for the sake of Christ’s call to follow him whatever may be the price. To gain the authentic, abundant life is to lose it in faithful obedience to our God.  This can be our own mission emphasis, our witness, our own expression of faith and loyalty to our God, to our Lord Jesus, especially in times like this. Amen.