I hope you didn’t miss this news story last week. The Russian Mariinsky Orchestra performed an outdoor concert in the ruins of Palmyra, Syria. Palmyra is a heritage listed archaeological site which was liberated from ISIS. It is a place where mass executions had been held. It’s liberation and the subsequent concert is so significant because it is a declaration of restoration for the people of Syria. It is a picture of beauty rising from ruins.
Beauty from ruins. A declaration of restoration. These phrases capture the heart of the Christian faith. Now, you nor I have ever been attacked by ISIS. I have never witnessed an execution, or really felt the hand of terrorism. My life certainly doesn’t resemble the ruins of Palmyra. My life is, well, safe and comfortable.
But perhaps we are more like Palmyra than we think. Don’t we all experience the pain of a broken world. Cancer looms up on a loved one. Tragedy seems to be a regular occurrence. Tax reforms benefit only the wealthy. Loneliness is a common acquaintance. We feel brokenness and we suffer through it.
It’s not just outside. If we look deeply inside ourselves we see our own brokenness (or maybe it’s just me). Down inside there’s regrets about choices, hurts, struggles with doubt, and problems with self-image. We try to hide these, but we can’t hide them from ourselves. Yes, our world is broken but so are we. Like Palmyra, our experiences can leave us as metaphorical ruins.
But listen. Can you hear it? There’s music playing. It ebbs and flows. Sometimes it’s loud, sometimes quiet. But it’s there. This sound is the Gospel. It is Jesus holding and healing in the midst of brokenness. Look what he did. He went out of his way to touch the sick and lift the downcast. He brought freedom for the oppressed and dignity to the suffering. He claimed the following words from Isaiah as being about himself:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Shalom is a word that isn’t used very often by followers of Jesus. It means much more than peace. It is making everything right. It is complete restoration and the enjoyment thereof. In short it is the word I think best encapsulates what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Shalom is the music that plays over the ruins of our lives. It is the promise that this brokenness you experience will not last forever. It will cease. Jesus will restore you. Often we only hear it faintly but even here there is the promise that shalom will come.
As a follower of Jesus, I know this to be true. But I don’t see it at the moment. I struggle with life. I feel like I’ve been hit from every side but I look ahead. Don’t take my word though. Consider what John writes about Jesus in Revelation:
“Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
This hasn’t happened yet. So I join with people throughout history saying “Come Lord Jesus”. I am saying “Jesus play your music over my ruins.”