Happy Friday Hope!
We made it through the week, Hope!
I've been re-reading a book I first read about 15 years ago, Inside Out by Larry Crabb. One of the critiques Crabb has of modern Christianity is this:
"We are told, sometimes explicitly, but more often by example, that it's simply not necessary to feel the impact of family tensions, frightening possibilities, or discouraging news. An inexpressible joy is available that rather than
us through hard times can actually
pressure, worry, and pain from our experience...
...The effect of such teaching is to blunt the painful reality of what it's like to live as part of an imperfect, and sometimes evil, community. We learn to pretend that we feel now what we cannot feel until heaven."
When events happen from Las Vegas to Johnston to the playground of Westwood Elementary here in Ankeny, it can be tempting to play this game. I want to encourage us to groan.
"For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us..." Romans 8:22-23
Groaning means we are honest about the feelings we have inside us that communicate something is not right. Anger, fear, confusion, sadness are not indicators something is wrong with our faith. Rather, they are reminders of why our faith is so important. We believe in a God who enters the brokenness of this world. A God who sometimes makes things better by fixing what is broken, and who sometimes makes things better by simply being with us in the midst of the brokenness. A God who promises us a day is coming when things will be all better.
"Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, "For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.") No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us." Romans 8:35-37
Overwhelming victory is ours. It's what we celebrated at Easter services last spring. The overwhelming victory of God's love is what gives us hope during weeks like this.
I'm glad to be surrounded by people on this staff and in this congregation who understand we aren't playing church. What we do is a matter of life and death. Keep up the great work, Hope. Keep on asking, seeking and knocking. God's building his kingdom here. In us and among us, even when we do not see it or know it or experience it.
And perhaps you'd join me in praying the Prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
This weekend at worship we'll be talking about why it's so important to "Spread the Word." Luther wanted to get the good news and the hope it offers into the language of the people and the hands of the people. That way when the painful realities of life hit, they can turn to powerful passages like this: "We who have fled to [God] for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls." Hebrews 6:18-19
Recently a friend of mine sent me a link to a song based on this verse. Perhaps listening to it will give you assurance that no matter what the world throws at me, I Have This Hope.