Monday, October 09, 2006

The Amish - or Did You See God?

The Amish, those quiet people who dress and live so unconventionally. These people who’s religious beliefs go back to a disagreement over foot washing, who are pretty much a side note in European and American history have come catapulting into our living rooms this past week.

Not that they wanted to. Not that being on television of all things is what any of them elected to do that morning. But there they are. Caricatures of a time that most of us have left so many years ago. Curiosities as it were of a time that should be gone forever.

But here they are. And what do they have to say to us? Well, what they say amounts to pretty much “Let us grieve our own, in our way. It’s nice that you want to help, but really, we’d rather move through this ordeal together – with our families. If you want to help, OK, but we’re not going to bug you about it.”

They prefer apparently to go through this with just as much relative silence as they do the rest of their lives. Quite a difference from the way many of the rest of us act when tragedy comes. No wailing on the television, no demands for justice, no complaints against authorities. Simple, silent acceptance of what has happened, and reliance on God.

In this event the Amish give us glimpses of what Christianity is supposed to be about. Whether it is 13 year old Marian Fisher who begs the murderer to kill her rather than the others, or the Amish neighbor that showed up at the murderer’s house hours after the event to offer forgiveness and prayer to the murderer’s wife, or the man who said “I hope they stay around here. They’ll have a lot of friends and a lot of support.”

It must be clear to any Christian in touch with their faith that the Amish response to what has happened is precisely the kind of response our God calls us to make. We can see in the Amish response a complete reliance on God, and a personification of Jesus as they recognize what has happened and yet all of them, from a little girl to an older man, look to the interests of others rather than seeking their own welfare.

Maybe the Amish do dress differently and perhaps we do see them as curious furniture makers, but can we see in them the very transformation that we want for ourselves? Can we look past the caricature and see the substance of a faith lived and expressed more profoundly than most of us can even imagine?

It has not been a good week for the Amish of Lancaster County or for mankind. But those who have eyes and ears could have seen and heard the very presence of our God in this world.

I hope you did.

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