One of the nurses from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, whose wedding I was going to conduct next month, said at the beginning of lockdown, “Don’t worry, this will only last a month.” She has been extremely busy for the last five months and her wedding postponed. Although there has been an end to some restrictions, COVID 19 is still killing people in this country and there is no sign of things going back to the old normal soon.
Some people are living nearly normal lives and are forgetting about social distancing. They are back at work, mixing with friends and relaxing in the pub.
Some of us, more at risk are taking sensible precautions.
Others are terrified to go out at all. They are in danger of becoming mentally ill.
It is important that all of us care for the whole community. In church this means keeping to the advice given by our Bishops and by the government and restricting our numbers so that we can socially distance. There was a moment during the week when I almost forgot about social distancing and visited someone who could probably have done with a hug.
Those who have refused to socially distance and have behaved recklessly have put us all at risk.
They have lived selfishly, according to their flesh. Paul says in Romans 8:13 that if we behave this way we will die. He contrasts this with those who are led by the Spirit of God who put to death their own physical needs so they can serve others.
They are not fearful. They do what God wants because they have a personal relationship with him, not because they are compelled to do so like slaves. They know God as their heavenly Daddy who loves them. Even though they are suffering, they know he wants the very best for them.
Christians have hope because we are adopted, chosen children of God. If we are children of God then we are heirs, “Heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”
As children of God, led by his Holy Spirit, we know there are better things to come. We will share in Christ’s heavenly glory when we see him face to face.
Waiting requires patience. Paul writes in Romans 8 about looking forward in hope for what we don’t see. We hope that there will soon be a day when there are no new cases of COVID 19.
Those who are unemployed hope that the economy will bounce back and that there will be better days ahead.
Those suffering the effects of global warming hope that people won’t continue to selfishly exploit our planet so that the world will remain beautiful and preserved for future generations.
We all have different hopes and fears. Some of our hopes from the past have been crushed. We know we are not going to see them fulfilled in our lifetime.
When all is darkness, we need to set our hopes on the God of hope who according to Romans 15 v 13 will fill us with joy and peace as we trust in him
A hopeful person is optimistic, anticipating positive outcomes joyfully.
We can live without most of the physical comforts that we take for granted but we cannot live without hope or we will fall into despair.
This week, our congregation has been shocked by the sudden loss from cancer of one of our younger members. Why? She was growing in her faith, enjoying life and had so much more to offer
What sort of God is it who causes cancer in young people? Stephen Fry the angry atheist and I guess most of us have asked this fair question.
We can look at the bright side. She had placed her hope in Christ. She has gone home to be with the Lord, she is out of pain, she has been promoted to glory; she is somewhere far better, forever with the Lord. All those things are true
Yet I can’t and don’t believe God wants us to suffer. When Jesus saves us, he both forgives us from our sins and heals us and makes us whole.
In the story of the wheat and the weeds, good and evil is sown and grows together.
The good seed, according to the explanation is sown by Jesus, the Son of Man, and the weeds by the evil one.
This is one explanation as to why suffering exists. It is caused by the devil and his agents, both demonic and human.
We all know that there are both good seeds and weeds in all of our lives. We root out and tackle the suffering and evil we are able to deal with and we have to trust Christ to cleanse and heal us from the rest.
Both our Gospel and the Romans passage look forward to that day when evil and suffering is brought to an end by Christ.
There will be a time when God separates the wheat from the tares, a time when the angels gather the wheat into God’ barn at the end of the age. What a lovely image of angels gathering our friends!
Until that time we look forward in hope. God is good.
We continue to look for an end to the suffering caused by COVID 19, and cancer which are both like weeds and parasites growing with the good cells within the body, replicating and taking over
Viruses are important in this fight. Viruses are not all bad. They are an important natural means of transferring genes between different species, which increases genetic diversity
Geneticists often use them to introduce genes into cells that they are studying. They are also used to treat various diseases, as they can specifically target cells and DNA. It shows promising use in the treatment of cancer and in gene therapy.
Despite the suffering of our present time, Paul says it does not compare with the glory to come. He looks forward in hope.
He gives another explanation for suffering. He says the creation was subjected to futility. The whole of creation, like us, he says is in eager longing to be set free from bondage to decay. If creation hadn’t been set up this way, there would be no need for redemption, no human choice and no means of developing moral character.
Paul describes creation is suffering labour pains waiting for the redemption of the children of God. In labour we wait, suffer, push and pant, pressing hard for the life God wants and gives to be born. We wait for his glory and life to be seen in all its fullness
Until that time we hope in patience for what we cannot now see or understand, trusting that the Lord who saved us from our sins when we trusted him will bring it about. We are saved if we have asked Jesus to come into our lives, but that salvation will become complete when creation is redeemed and there is no more suffering or decay.
you made us all in your image:
may we discern you in all that we see,
and serve you in all that we do;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen