From Sunday's Lessons
Romans 5:12-14 (The Message version)
"You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we're in— first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses. So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses. Even those who didn't sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God."
In December of 2004, we were overjoyed to hear from Anne's brother Pat. They had been on a beach in Thailand during the Tsunami. They came close to being numbered among the victims. We could imagine all kinds of horrible outcomes as we watched the scenes on TV. Hearing their voices was a great relief.
Now, just over six years later, we finally just heard last night from a family friend who lives in Tokyo and has family all over the country. We have been praying for her and her family, not knowing what was happening with them.
Haiti, New Zealand, Japan. Our beautiful, amazing planet, is also dangerous. The version of the passage above, said that Adam's sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone. Our relationship with our planet is disturbed, and our earth's relationship with us is disturbed.
But a bit later Paul writes this (Romans 8:18-28)
That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it's not only around us; it's within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We're also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
This time of disturbance is not the permanent state of affairs. God is going to heal this broken and damaged relationship. So what do we do in this time of waiting.
First, we pray. That impulse to pray is from God, so by all means let us pray. God promises to work through our prayers. So pray for those who are doing rescue work, those who are putting themselves in harms way to prevent nuclear reactor disaster, those who are doing the painful work of finding and caring for the dead, and those who have lost homes, possessions, and especially those who have lost loved ones.
Second, we give when disaster strikes. I know someone who raises money for a local charity clinic. When people tell her they can "only" give $5, or $10, she says "No, "only" is not in my giving vocabulary. Your $5 or your $10 can buy this, help pay for that, and is the percentage of this. So don't tell me only. Because your gift matters."
So let us pray and give, and may God honor both.