Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
What a strange and interesting time we live in! It has been fascinating to observe the reactions of people in my networks as they grapple with feeling trapped at home, with having to teach or simply appease frustrated, restless kids, and with the fears of the impact of the virus (real and imagined) on communities, on families, and ultimately (you knew this was coming) on themselves individually. In other words, what about ME?
For some, the threat has literally kept them awake at night, wondering whether they will be spared if they are careful enough to wipe down every surface with bleach and vigorously isolate themselves, or maybe they will be spared if they pray hard enough. And in those dark night of the soul moments, other questions are bound to arise:
- Why is this virus emerging from God’s good creation?
- Where is God in this viral pandemic?
- Will God protect me? And if I get the virus, what does this mean about God’s protection over me?
In the Old Testament Lectionary readings for this week, we find familiar, comforting stories of God’s reassurance that God will remain with us and will not fail to keep promises (Genesis: 28:15); that the darkness we perceive is as daylight to Him (Psalm 139); and that God’s love reaches all the way into the depths to rescue us (Psalm 86). And rather than reading these passages in their proper and messy contexts, it is indeed tempting to read these passages as a personal love letter from God to God’s special treasure: me. And oh, friends, doesn’t that sound like just the soothing and seductive balm we each crave right now?
But we must read on in the Romans and Matthew selections to fully understand what God is really up to. Here God reveals what everything has been moving toward from the beginning which the Apostle Paul explains in Romans 8:18-21:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that 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. (Emphasis added)
And in Matthew 13, Jesus explains to the disciples that the good seed and the weeds are to be left to grow together rather than ripped apart by vigorous weeding so that in the end, “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43). And lest we begin to imagine ourselves as the people who know the wheat from the weeds, Jesus explains that the angels will serve as reapers, and not we ourselves.
If we dare to count ourselves among the righteous children of God who shine like the sun, we must also be willing to endure patiently the sufferings of this present time and groan alongside the creation as together in patience and with hope, we await the redemption of our bodies and the full arrival of God’s coming Kingdom (Romans 8:23). The creation all around us longs and groans for the revealing of God’s faithful people. Our neighbors, relatives, and colleagues are watching to see how God’s generous, hopeful and trusting people grapple with days and times like these. Whatever happens to you or to me, we must hold fast to God and remember that it isn’t about us; it’s about the coming Kingdom. May others catch a glimpse of that coming Kingdom in our generous, faithful response to today’s challenges.