[Pastor's Newsletter Article for May 2020]
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. – Romans 8:18-21
We live in a world that spends much of it’s time trying to avoid pain. That is not an allegation, or horrible circumstance, as much as it is a truth for us as an “Old Adam” or “Old Eve.” That “Old” part of us that has been with us since Genesis chapter 3. The “Old us” that wants to live and yet finds it so hard to do so on our own. That is the mortal “us.” The “us” that sees a pandemic come and we fear our own death at the hands of something we cannot see or control. That is the difficulty of life, that God’s grace has granted us protection from for so long, but now the reality for many of our brothers and sisters around the world has come to us as the truth of groans of all creation awaiting the new creation to be born. The “new you” being raised from the dead, from our mortality, to glory in the God who frees us from the shackles of disease and death.
In the summer of 1974, my dad went to Peru as a missionary. He often looks back on those days with fondness. The ministry was fruitful with opportunities to share his gifts with the churches there, and he loves telling the story of the time they gave their guide the dregs of the bottom of the campfire coffee. But my dad came back from there with a gift of his own – malaria. He had not been taking the medicine he was supposed to, and for years afterwards he suffered every August from a major illness as a result from the infection. My dad was lucky because he had that medicine with him, and he was able to come back to America and get treatment. That is not the case for 600,000 people each year who die from an illness that the First World has all but annihilated.
As we live in the midst of this disease that has captured the headlines, let us see it as the groanings of this creation begging for the new. May we see in our fear what is the shared lives of our brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia, and South America, who know what death is, seeing it every day. May it cause us to have the hope of the cross before us. The hope of the empty tomb as our guiding light. The hope of the Christ who raises the dead. May we be a church that has it’s eyes set on the heavenly realm that is to come that we might have a daring hope that brings life to those around us.
Not all earthly good that we do comes in physical things. It is not always a free meal, clothing for the naked, or healing of the body. Often our earthly good comes in a heart that has had faith increase in this God who sets us free. That death cannot hold us. That the very creation itself longs for the day when Christ will be revealed, that he comes again, not just for you but for every single thing in this world that is held in bondage to decay. For what may come in suffering, we also know that comfort and consolation are not very far behind. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows…And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will also share in the comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)