Sunday, July 19, 2020

Year A, Pentecost 7, Romans 8.12-25

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
8I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”
One of my deepest convictions is that within history there is an advancement, a progressive movement toward a greater good.
More than anything else, this is the reason I consider myself a “liberal”, though such labels are not always helpful.
Let’s just say that within our culture there is a divide.  That divide centers around the question “Do you believe that our best days are behind us, or ahead of us.”
There are some who look to the past and seek to preserve and reclaim that which they perceive to be great about it.
And others look to the future and the hope that we might advance as a people and a nation and become greater than we have ever been.
It is in this second sense that our founding Fathers wrote in the preamble to the Constitution:
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The whole premise upon which our nation was founded as the great experiment of democracy, was that indeed, we could create “a more perfect union.”
Notice that it does not say, that we can create a “Perfect Union”.  Nope, can’t do that.  But we can work toward a more perfect union.
And so over the years we have striven to achieve this lofty goal of creating a better future than the past.
There is a tension though.  As much as we hope for a better future we need to be realistic that there will always be evil and hardships and challenges along the way.
That’s why Jesus told the parable of the Wheat and the Weeds.  If you try to destroy evil, you will destroy the good as well.
In the face of this we hear words of hope from the Apostle Paul.
8I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”
There are two basic hopes that sustain us as Christians:
                The first is that tomorrow might be a better day.
                And the second is that after all is said and done there awaits for us in heaven a glory beyond all others.
We are to keep these two things before us.  That in the face of the “sufferings of this present time” tomorrow might be a better day, and that in the end all suffering will be gone and all creation will be redeemed.
The sufferings of this present time—
When Paul wrote those words he likely was referring to the persecution that the early church was experiencing, especially the Christians in Rome to whom this letter was written.  Paul would eventually be martyred in Rome.  And yet for all the hardship he experienced he clung to the hope of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Throughout the ages hope has abounded in the face of suffering.
One thing that bears mentioning is that historians have told us is that one of the most powerful witnesses that the early Christians gave was in the context of the pandemic, the plague, that attacked the Roman Empire. 
Why most people fled, the Christians stayed behind and cared for the sick and the suffering, standing firm in their hope that this present suffering might be overcome both in this world and the next.
We live in uncertain times once again.
And faced with the suffering that is taking place in our world we are torn between longing to go back in time to a better place and situation or to move forward beyond this ‘present suffering’ to an even ‘more perfect’ day.
Covid 19 struck close to home for us on Wednesday. 
Our daughter-in-law tested positive, and though she is currently symptom free, as is our son, we worry.
That  being the case it is no longer an abstract reality.
Our son was scheduled to visit this weekend.  Had our daughter-in-law not been tested at work, we might all have been infected.  We dodged the bullet this time.
Not only that, but on Thursday I learned that one of the members of Point of Grace that also worships in our building tested positive.  Precautions have been taken, and so far no one else has been infected, but it points to the vulnerability we all share.
Fears abound.
With respect to COVID 19 we don’t know how bad it will get or how long it will last.
And individually we face other issues.
I had some symptoms develop over the last few weeks that left me dealing with my fears.  One of the blessings and curses of living in this age is that when you have some medical symptom you can google it and get all sorts of information.  It’s a blessing because you quickly can determine if it merits a doctor’s visit.  It’s a curse because you learn about everything that might be wrong and you end up fearing the worst.
In my case, further tests revealed that it was nothing to worry about at this time.
Other issues abound.
Murder hornets are in Washington State.
Global warming continues.
Racial tensions are unabated.
Some have said that it appears “Mother Nature” is mad, and you don’t want to mess with “Mom”.
The sufferings of this present time.
And the hope for tomorrow.
Again I will say, that our response to such suffering is twofold.
  1. We faithfully do what we can to create a better world for ourselves and others.
  2. And we live in hope that evil will not be the final word on our lives.
We pray.
And we ask God’s guidance.
But most importantly we trust that he will deliver us.

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