This past year has brought new struggles but also new knowledge and new opportunities. In 2 Corinthians 4: 17, the Apostle Paul wrote: “Our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison.”
We’re reminded that we’re not the first to face problems nor will we be the last. We also find ourselves dealing with issues related to our friends and family. We often face expectations and struggle to meet them. We’ve spent the last year with COVID-19 concerns all around us. Millions around the world have died, over 600,000 of them Americans. People in other countries severely afflicted are crying out for vaccines.
Now July is arriving. You and I are fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth: Northern Lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula + a small part of Wisconsin. We have a spectacularly lovely camp at Presbytery Point which we should use and cherish, a haven from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Jesus, our great healer, knew all about afflictions but also about solitude. He was constantly encountering people with ailments but also constantly seeking refuge and quiet time which we can find at Presbytery Point. We need those contemplative moments because we’re living in a time when the ground below us has shifted in a major way. Sometimes we feel that we no longer know who we are.
Last month, we commemorated the Tulsa Massacre of 100 years ago. A thriving and prosperous community of African Americans was destroyed: people killed, homes looted and burned, many left homeless. The government itself helped perpetrate the crime. And the event was mostly lost to history.
William Kondrath in his 2008 book, God’s Tapestry: Understanding and Celebrating Differences has a chronology of Institutional and Cultural Oppression in the United States. But even his chronology doesn’t mention Tulsa. This is just one example of how the history with which most of us grew up turns out to be heavily tainted, and that’s why a reckoning is underway. This isn’t unique to the U.S.
During my time in Kenya, clashes took place among people of different ethno-linguistic groups. Peacemaking and reconciliation sessions convened to address the perceptions and grievances of the parties. People discovered that what united them was far greater than what divided them. We too must follow this course to mend our divisions.
Because we are being tested in these days. Tested as citizens and tested as Christians. As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we should all know where our primary loyalty lies. Jesus the Christ tells us, as related by Mark 3:27, “No one gets into the house of a strong person and steals anything without first tying up the strong person.” You and I need to remember that statement. We need to steel ourselves today with a faith that cannot be compromised, that cannot be watered down. Don’t let yourself be drawn into ways of life that Jesus has called us to abandon. Jesus, after all, came to save sinners. His constant companions were not the elites of his day.
We know that more challenges lie ahead for us, in our country and in our personal lives. Maybe these are health issues. Maybe family issues. Maybe financial strains. Maybe psychological issues. The Apostle Paul reminds us that faith can carry us through all our trials. As he says in a letter to Christians in Corinth: “As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God's glory. 16 So we aren't depressed. But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day.”
That’s our faith challenge, dear friends. Jesus is calling us to be our very best selves. He offers us hope whenever our faith is tested. To him be the glory forever and ever.