By Rev. Ann Mann
News headlines can be distressing. The war in the Middle East. The mass shooting in Maine. More evidence we live in a broken world. I believe the only way to have peace is if everyone accepts the love of Christ. Love is truly the answer. The world has always needed it, and always will. The love of Christ brings hope in spite of the headlines.
Sadly, I see a world that is increasingly polarized. In order to love, we must be willing to listen to the one with whom we disagree. If we are to thrive as a community, even as a nation, we need to embrace the art of truly listening. Accepting that our way may not be the only way. Too often we are formulating a response before the other person is through speaking. Communities, and even countries, are so caught up in advancing our own narrative we fail to see “the other.”
One thing my almost 65 years has taught me is that things are not always as they seem. There are things I was certain about when I was 25 or 35, and now I see them differently. At 35, I was convinced the Bible said women cannot be preachers. Then I read how Jesus tells a woman to “Go and tell” of her healing (Luke 8:38-39) and of His resurrection (John 20:17.) Jesus changed my mind. I see things differently now. I was a “woman preacher hater,” and now I am a woman preacher.
I have been out of town most of October on a “Passages of the Bible” cruise in the Mediterranean. We were supposed to go to Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, and Bethlehem. From there we were going to Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt. Then we were to go on to Ephesus, Turkey, and Athens and Corinth, Greece.
In an instant, our plans changed. We were hours away from the port of Haifa in Israel, when Hamas attacked. Mass casualties. Unsuspecting men, women and children were taken hostage. This attack is inexcusable. I understand there are territorial disputes between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Rarely is violence the answer.
Even with the violence so close, our trip continued. It was not the trip we planned, but it was still an enjoyable vacation. This time away a time to celebrate 40 years of marriage to my late husband Kim. (His life was cut short by a brain hemorrhage in August of 2022.)
My plan was to spend our anniversary immersed in the faith that sustains me. The violent attack changed my plans. Instead, we went to Cypress, and then the Greek isles of Mykonos, Santorini, and Rhodes. We were still able to visit Ephesus, Turkey, and Athens and Corinth, Greece. I also spent a little time in Rome, Italy.
There was no choice. I had to embrace change. A reminder that change is inevitable. I could stomp my feet, and refuse to go with this new plan, and fly home instead. I could be divisive and accusatory. Or I could embrace the change I did not choose.
I chose to embrace the change. And I was surprised by the beauty I encountered on this new itinerary. I had no plans to cruise the Greek Isles but enjoyed it anyway. Sometimes things don’t turn out exactly like we think they should.
We can and should mourn the loss. But we are also called to embrace the change. This is a gracious response. This is a loving response. The love of Christ is truly the answer. The world has always needed more love, and it always will. This gives us hope in a world where the news headlines are often distressing.
Ann Mann is an Emmy Award winning journalist, now serving as pastor to Barnesville First United Methodist Church. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.