It has been a difficult week. It is meet and right for us to gather together and worship in difficult times;
- Because worship reminds us who we are – not victims or partisans in a troubled world, but sons and daughters of God, saved through the one who came not to judge and condemn the world, but to save it.
- Because when we gather in worship we are not just consoling ourselves, we are making a stand: peace will reign in this world and it will begin not after an election or after people in the world finally learn to respect, understand, and love one another; no, the reign of peace begins here and now among us in this place. And we are going to take that peace and plant it in our homes, in our friendships and everywhere we walk, talk, and communicate (yes, even on social media).
- Because our Lord knows our pain and the pain of this world, and in addition to giving us the tactics necessary to spread His vision of joy (what we call the Gospel and Mysteries) – He gives us words of encouragement.
So it is with today’s Epistle and Gospel readings. Let me just share three points from them.
- Saint Paul says we glory in two things: the grace that faith in Christ has given us and in tribulation. Why tribulation? Because, when we struggle with all the terrible things that afflict us and this world, and we do it AS CHRISTIANS, we learn perseverance, and from that gain virtue, and from that virtue we gain hope. This is HUGE, because if we face tribulations in any other way – be it as stoics, as liberals, as conservatives… whatever … it will ruin us. We will become bitter and despondent and judgmental and about as far from who we should be as we can possibly get.
- Christ Himself warned us of this when He told us that if our eyes are good, our whole lives will be filled with light, but if our eyes are bad, our lives will be filled with darkness. If our mindset is grounded on the Gospel – that it is Christ that saves and that His love has already driven defeated everything – to include death! – – then nothing we see or experience can defeat us. But if our mindset is grounded in anything else – our own strength, fatalism, or the rulers of the world – then all our experiences, everything we see and go through, will just drive us farther from the kingdom of God. As Christ says, we cannot serve two rulers.
- Lastly, our Lord does not want us to be consumed with guilt and worry. Guilt is handled not through self-justification or by carrying it around like a hairshirt, but by losing it through confession and repentance. And worry – that thing that wastes so much of our mental and spiritual energy – is handled by trusting in the truth of what Christ has done and promised us. We have to know – really know – God really does love you, He really loves all the people who suffer discrimination and persecution, and He really loves all the people who put themselves in harm’s way for us. He is our Father and our brother; a Father that loves us so much that He sent His Son into the world so that we might be saved; and a Brother (through adoption) who – though we did not deserve it – was willing to suffer and die so that our real enemies: sin, death, and the devil, would be defeated.
None of these things are new to you. They are so much a part of our identity as Christians – so much a part of our identity as Christians – that they are written into our very DNA. But sometimes we forget, we are so caught up in the struggle that we forget that our victory – and the victory of humanity – has already been won.