Who said growing in grace was easy?

3108_1920x1080There has been a great number of people to pray for of late. Both people in my family and our family of faith faced serious hardship. Some dealt with a reality that so often comes with age – the deterioration of our mortal bodies, some even facing death. Farther afield, too many folks remained hungry, cities burned in upheaval, the earth shook, and war and terrorism was much of the news. Some reported the shrinking of Christianity while an RV on the road was covered with threats: “Repent! The end is near! Jesus is coming in judgment!”

Is this really the abundant life Christ promised us or our doom? Ponder Paul’s words: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed” (Romans 8:18-19). He’ll go on to say that like birth pangs presenting new life, the Kingdom of God is both here and on its way.

If we focus on our suffering – if it is all we meditate on and what shapes our decisions – then, no, we aren’t likely living the life Jesus intended nor experiencing the fullness of God’s grace. That false “reality” misshapes our lives. To Paul, Christ’s resurrection has changed our world and our lot. We shouldn’t trust gossip or the news. We can’t trust our senses. We need to trust in the promises of God alone. A new heaven and new earth are on their way – as certain as the fall harvest even though we might find ourselves presently under the most blistering sun.

Here and now, the seeds of God’s love are germinating and beginning to sprout, but the harvest day isn’t quite here. That’s right, we aren’t just waiting for heaven in some far off future, but we are surrounded by heaven breaking into a very real and difficult world. It’s being revealed in the signs of comfort offered us and sustaining grace experienced during trial. It proves manifest in new life – creation itself, the birth of new children or opportunities, but also in the transformed and still changing children of God. Peter agrees with Paul writing, “Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.”

This true reality is rooted in faith and a certain hope that feeds the hungry, ministers to the sick and dying, welcomes the stranger, or can love in the face of death. I’m not talking about the power of positive thinking here but radically trusting in the power of God. While we wait, we choose to believe. We seek to trust and follow. We only try to act on the certainty of eternal love around us and in us – not the uncertainty of our passing, present experience. Our Triune God does the rest.

Amidst wars and rumors of war, Jesus will come again. He is coming here and now. Yet, that’s not a threat. It is a new reality that has the power to redirect and bless every minute of our lives.

I pray your summer prove a time of fun, refreshment and new growth.

Pastor Lou

This post originally appeared as a pastoral letter in Messiah Lutheran‘s newsletter, The Messenger (June 2015).

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2015 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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