There is a mysterious and remote island in Melanesia that many might consider the strangest island in the world. Beyond its breathtaking views of white sand, green palm trees, and crystal clear waters, everything you will see here will surprise and shock you. There is a strip of land resembling an airstrip, but unlike any other you have ever seen, illuminated not by lights but by random fires. You will see a hut that looks like an air control tower. In it, you will notice a native man wearing a wooden imitation headset and operating wooden poles as if they were real controls. You notice the natives marching in formation, holding fake wooden weapons and the US flag. What is going on, you might wonder? Is this some sort of weird festival? A cult celebration? If you ask one of the locals, they will explain that they are awaiting the return of John Frum. Many believe John Frum originally was John from America, one of the US soldiers who briefly used the island as a base in World War II. Coming in touch with the advanced technology of the US military, seeing the Air Force drop cargo of goods, food and supplies on their tiny island on regular bases captivated their imagination so powerfully that to this day, decades after the war has ended, they watch the skies every day hoping for the return of John Frum and the precious cargo of many blessings.
Forty days after the resurrection, on the Mount of Olives, the disciples witnessed their beloved teacher ascend into the heavens. Such a profound and miraculous encounter with the divine probably left them shaken and speechless. Mesmerized by this sight, the disciples gazed into heaven, where Christ disappeared. We don’t know how long this lasted or what they were thinking. Were they hoping Christ would return with an army of heavenly hosts to establish his Kingdom and restore justice and peace? Were they hoping they, too, would be joining him? We simply don’t know. What we do know is that at some point, two angels approached them, asking why they stared into heaven. It is as if the angels were encouraging them to stop gazing and trying to spot Christ in the cloud and gently reminding them to return to the world and continue to carry the life-giving, comforting and healing ministry of the Lord, which is exactly what the apostles did.
As Christians, we sometimes spend too much time and effort staring into heaven by praying and waiting for his answer, intervention, and blessing. Like the natives of the cargo cult, we hope for the divine cargo of blessings to eventually land on our small island of egocentric needs, wants and desires. In doing so, we overlook the importance of the great commission of our Lord to preach the Gospel, proclaim and promote peace and justice, minister, heal and engage with our wounded world and society.
A few days ago we were shaken by the heartbreaking news of another shooting and another massacre that took the lives of innocent children and teachers. Devastated and saddened by this grave news many of us turned to our friends and social media to express our disappointment and sadness. We posted, shared, liked, twitted, and retweeted countless postings sending our thoughts and prayers for the lives lost and families affected. We expressed hope that someone, somewhere, will finally realize what is the right thing to do and make some serious choices that would prevent such a horrific event from ever happening again.
The lives of individuals, families, communities and societies are not transformed and shaped by good vibes and wishes alone. It is time for us to wake up, stop gazing into the heavens and act. It is time for us as Christians, parents, families, communities, citizens and taxpayers of this wonderful country to stand up and say, enough is enough. It is time for us to engage with the pain and suffering of our society by reaching out to our lawmakers and administration and not encouraging, asking or expressing hope but demanding action and change that would commission a comprehensive evaluation of the problem, the mental health crisis in this country, swift and decisive regulations and laws that would effectively prevent such acts of violence from claiming one more innocent life.