By Rev. Debra Jene Collum
Chatfield United Methodist
The church I serve, Chatfield United Methodist, has been organizing a Soup Supper and Silent Auction for the Eagles Cancer Telethon for many, many years. Like many of the ministries we do, we do it with such passion and faithfulness because we have been touched by the problem we are trying to alleviate. Hunger, lack of warmth, lack of family connections, the difficulty of getting medical equipment, and in the case of the Cancer Telethon, the horrible disease of cancer.
I have walked with many people who have lived with cancer. And even though cancer research has come far and the diagnosis of cancer is not always the horror story it was just a few years ago; it is still the last thing anyone wants to hear. We can read wonderful stories of people overcoming cancer or living with cancer. We can hear heart wrenching stories of people’s last days. We can tell stories of bravery, foresight, and faith as people tell their stories of what cancer means to them. Each person who hears the words: “You have cancer,” has their own, deeply personal story. I would never assume that one’s person story is the same for someone else.
Yet, there is one thing I can say in the face of every type of cancer and every diagnosis: There is nothing that separates anyone from the love of God. Nothing, neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor anything else in all creation, even cancer, will separate anyone from the love of God. (Romans 8)
Cancer is NOT God’s judgement on anyone. God doesn’t visit cancer as judgement on some people and not on others. That is a damaging and dangerous concept of a god.
Christian churches just celebrated the coming of God into the world. IF God were a god whose love for us was judged by our life circumstances, then do you think God’s Son, Jesus, would have been born in a manger, to a poor family? If God’s love for us was judged by how our lives turn out? Would Jesus’ life have ended up on a cross? It couldn’t have gone any worse for Jesus, yet God never stopped loving him. Or condemned him.
The God we serve and who loves us does not visit us with disease and bad luck. The God we serve and who loves us, gives us the Truth that nothing will ever separate us from God’s Love.
It is those who deeply believe this promise of God who are able to face cancer with a bit of grace. Not always joy or happiness or even lack of anger, but grace. It is those who are able to say, “What I am going through is horrible and unfair, YET, I am loved by God. And that is my hope and my salvation.”
While the church I serve will not be able to have our Soup Supper this year, we will continue to believe in its cause and that cancer can be overcome. In the meantime, we will also believe that cancer is not a punishment for living, life or anything else. It is a disease. A complicated, unfair, horrible disease. And we will believe that within the disease, we will be held firmly in the embrace of a Love that comes from Love itself, God who is truly with us.