So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. (Galatians 6: 9-10)
I am tired: tired of wars and rumors of war; tired of terrorism; tired of illness and trials; tired of death.[i] I know I am not alone. Our nation and world has experienced much too much suffering these last few weeks. Just watching the news was emotionally draining, and many still feel alone and isolated. Others grieve or remain afraid.
Yet if we overly focus on this very real suffering and evil, is it any wonder we grow tired? It seems too much for us, because it is! We are not God, able to work healing, life-giving miracles at our whim. As frail, fallible humans, we are not able to stand alone. So what can we do?
At such difficult times, I don’t give up. I find comfort, strength and motivation in a promise – something not yet a reality, but definitely coming. We are told there will be a day with no more death, mourning, crying or pain. All will be made new.[ii]
Oh, that day’s not here yet, but Christ’s ascension into heaven[iii] foreshadows his certain return.[iv] Although Jesus isn’t with us in body, it is Jesus himself who promises us, “I am with you always.”[v] Granted much stands against us, yet our God is for us and standing with us. We are already conquerors sharing in Christ’s victory over sin, death and the Devil no matter how we might feel about it.[vi]
This promise is our inheritance and claims us as Christ’s people – a people of living faith, hope and love.[vii] It turns our eyes to look beyond our own suffering and fears toward how we are called to help answer such pain and injustice in the world.[viii] Indeed, in Jesus’ physical absence, we serve as his body.[ix] Our feet are those which bring his good news to dark places.[x] Our hands are those that bring his healing.[xi] Our shared ministries are used to create miracles and give life in his name.[xii]
This is no time to run and hide. It isn’t time to be caught asleep or medicating ourselves with escapist, self-indulgence. Instead, Jesus invites us to truly live saying, “Don’t be afraid. Follow me.” Jesus is coming, and we have much left to do in preparation.
No, we still aren’t God, but we are God’s people. At home or away, at work, school or vacation, even in places of emergency, we remain his church – together with Jesus and never alone. When people look to the hills for help[xiii], it might just be us whom Jesus has sent to be his living answer to their cries for help.
So, let us rest when needed, mourn if we must, support one another, pray and wait with patience, but never give up. There will be a day when there will be no more broken hearts. Until then, Jesus asks us as his body to surrender our hearts to his own – trusting in his promises; fulfilling his Father’s will; freed to love God and our neighbor as his Spirit leads us with all that we are, wherever we might be, whatever might happen. In the face of death, it is time to live.
Just as Jesus came when the time was right[xiv], he sends us now to a world in need of his love – a world where we will meet the Risen Christ on our way already waiting to sustain us with his joy and peace.
At a time of terror or indeed any time, it proves a blessing to take up our cross and seek to do what is right. All will be well, for we always belong to Christ.[xv] Jesus never grows tired, and he will never give up on us.
As I posted this pastoral letter, I recalled this song by Stephen Curtis Chapman. Inspired by the Book of Acts, it often comforted me as a police officer and since. I believe it echoes the above message shared with my community:
[iv] Read for example Matthew 24:30-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Although some biblical scholars argue these passages are metaphorical or symbolic of his return, orthodox Christians maintain Jesus will somehow return to earth for the final resurrection and judgment – whether we understand the details of how or not.
[ix] Church is not a physical building or meeting place, but believers united together in and with Christ, the Head of the Body. We are the church. Sometimes called the catholic (with the small “c” meaning universal) church, we extend beyond time and place. Some passages to explore: Romans 12:3-5; 1 Corinthians 10:31-33; 1 Corinthians 12:12-26; Ephesians 1:18-23; Ephesians 2:19-22; Ephesians 5:25-32; Colossians 1:17-20; Colossians 3:14-16; and 1 Peter 2:9-10.
The above pastoral letter is adapted from one originally published in Messiah Lutheran Church and School’s newsletter, The Messenger (May 2013 edition). To view the entire issue of The Messenger or to see the full calendar of events, visit: http://www.mlcas.org
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the Today’s New International Version translation.
© 2013 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.