Proper 11 / July 20, 2014
19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8)
The epistle reading for this week is timely….very timely for our world and time. A world where in the same few weeks we find out that 50,000+ children (some say more than 80,000) have fled danger/poverty for safety/opportunity only to find that they are not welcome and are at the center of a political fire storm. A world where a passenger plane is shot down killing over 270 people by a covert operation in the middle of a civil war that can only get worse before it gets better. A world where two countries that have fought for two millennia over dirt are at it once again with both sides breaking peace, pointing fingers, pulling triggers, and burying the dead. And a time when it feels natural to be nervous about the sky falling in on top of us. Yes – these ancient words are timely indeed.
Every new news story reporting death and disaster makes me hurt inside. But this reality is not about me at all. It is about a world in trouble. The description of Paul is that the reality of experiencing conflict, destruction, death, are like groans from deep inside that produce pain, convulsion, stress in our bodies and on our community. All of creation is groaning and by groaning I mean lashing out at anybody that gets in the way of “getting everything we can” and/or “having it our way” always. The root of the destruction in our world that kills others and controls others is our own selfishness. We really think that the world is ours and if it seems to be different than what we want we will just lash out and take back possession of what is ours. This seems to be especially true if we think that we have a God given mandate to do so. This is the real world that we live in and I hate the way things are.
By now I know that I can’t stop countries from fighting over dirt or acting secretly to over throw another government. Nor can I stop people claiming to be Christians from taking arms against the vulnerable and/or placing political ambitions above their theological convictions ( if they have any). I can’t make the mentally ill act rationally and I can’t make the mentally fit act faithfully. Just saying that out loud helps me to realize that as I am at the end of myself in world matters, I may be at the beginning of a good place in me where God matters. All I can do is hope. And our hope in God saves us.
That is not a psycho-babble answer to help us keep calm. It is the medicine for our internal groaning that is fueled by selfish desire and demands that control our behavior and reek destruction on others. Patiently we allow God to replace our aches, pains, worries, fears, anxieties, cravings, addictions, etc, with hope rooted in His presence and redeeming purposes in our world. However, this hope is not passive, private, or personal. It is hope that belongs in the world and we are God’s good stewards letting hope loose in all we do. While the world acts out in its groaning and gasping from sin, we are confident that God is bringing something into our midst that will change it all. We can’t always (usually?) see it happening, but it is happening. Believe that!
While we wait… let’s do something faithfully active to show hope in our world. Hope should not be hidden in our hearts. It should be out in the open. Hope out in the open shapes our response when tempted to politicize a tragedy or act radically for selfish purposes. We can either get busy groaning in the pain of the world or get busy working for the redemption of others. We are not saviors. We are sons/daughters of God, settlers of His kingdom, and servants to all. Sitting quietly in our faith is not God’s plan. (Nor is acting in religious jihad over a changing culture.) His plan is to meet us in our pain and confusion so we can reject the temptation to go it alone and try to save ourselves. But while we wait for things to be fulfilled by God, we are on the move dispensing the sounds and sights of a new reality. A reality that is replacing groans with glee.
Let your hope out and see God save us and others.
“What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.” (Nicholas Thomas Wright)