In our Misery

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7th Sunday after Pentecost

In our Misery

            We gather together in the name of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ knowing that he has sent the Holy Spirit into our midst to strengthen and enlighten our hearts and minds to the glory that is in Christ Jesus. Therefore, in the stead of our Lord Jesus Christ, I give you peace that only God can give through the Holy Spirit, Amen.

            We have much to fear in this world. Wars, escalation of conflict between nations, violence in our streets, plague and the uncertainty of our future all bear down on our minds, bodies and souls. We are definitely in troublesome times.

            God has truly blessed our nation and its people yet we are still subject to the Prince of this realm, the Lawless One, Satan. Since the beginning of our existence, Satan has striven to destroy God’s good creation. He is like a wolf snapping at our heels as we run in fear seeking safety.

            He seeks to divide and conquer God’s people through sin and doubt. He has done this throughout all time and all creation. Why does he work so hard to separate us from our Lord? Because the very day that he caused sin to come into the world through the deception of Adam and Eve, he was cursed to die.

            That’s right. God declared His judgment on the Great Deceiver in the Garden of Eden.

“Because you have done this,

You are cursed more than all cattle,

And more than every beast of the field;

On your belly you shall go,

And you shall eat dust

All the days of your life.

   And I will put enmity

Between you and the woman,

And between your seed and her Seed;

He shall bruise your head,

And you shall bruise His heel.” [Genesis 3:14-15]

From that moment, Satan knew he would no longer exist forever. He knew all his works were destined to end. We know this from the Holy Scripture of Revelation to St. John, where it says;

‘Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”’ [Re 12:10–12]

Did you hear the comforting statements made from the throne of heaven? I will repeat them.

“Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser… And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb…”

We know the future through these words. The devil’s time is short and he has already lost the war, yet he continues to fight against us.

            The more deadly the tools our adversary uses against us shows how desperate he has become. This time he has used a different tool to separate and divide us – we call it COVID-19. We now witness the effect of our adversary’s handiwork. Instead of coming together in concord, there is discord. We see neighbor attack neighbor in our communities over whether we should wear face masks. We see hoarding of food and toilet paper, rioting and looting, murder and violence. Worst of all, we see a fear so great, that our very churches are being closed.

You see, the devil knows his job very well. He is using plague to poison the minds of the people, and those put in authority over us, in order to shake the very foundation of our faith.

We now witness frustration, fear and anxiety. St. Paul defines this as “[God’s] creation being subjected to futility.” It almost seems futile some days lately. It seems when we just start getting used to a new way of doing things, the situation changes, requiring us to do something new or strange.

Some people lament these new changes and relate them to restrictions as extreme as being in prison. And so, we wait with eager longing for the world to be set free from its bondage to corruption and to be set free from the interruption of our lives and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God once again.

St. Paul writes that:

“…the whole creation has been groaning together… And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

Wow! It is as if the Apostle Paul were living in our time. Haven’t we all been groaning together in our current state of affairs, not only outwardly but inwardly as well? Haven’t we all been in constant prayer for God to deliver us from this tribulation? If you haven’t, it’s never too late to start!

            Yes, we are all suffering, but we have something those who do not know Christ do not have; hope. St. Paul tells us that by this hope we are saved. In a world that demands we trust in the ‘Science’ to give us hope, we can see that this type of hope is no hope. “For who hopes for what he sees?” [Romans 8:24b] All the charts and graphs. All the statistics and numbers cannot ultimately bring true hope. Therefore, Paul gives us the comfort, that with patience, our true hope will be revealed to us.

            Just as a child anxiously awaits the opening of the Christmas presents, we anxiously wait for the day of Christ when we will obtain everlasting life with him in his kingdom. We know that what awaits us is good. We know it will be the realization of what Christ has already promised through his death and resurrection.

            Here is another promise given to us by our Lord and Savior. He has sent to us his Holy Spirit to guide us, to comfort us and to strengthen us. We know we can be weak. We know that we sometimes want to give up on this blessed hope. In this weakness we are covered with the power of the Holy Spirit. It is he who lifts us out of our trouble. St. Paul even admits that we do not know what to pray for, “but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” [Romans 8:26]

            How does that make you feel? How does it feel to know that the very Spirit of God is with you, groaning alongside of you? Does this bring you comfort? Understand that the Holy Spirit’s groaning is not the same as our own. We groan in fear and desperation, He groans in the compassion of Christ. He groans in empathy and understanding much like a parent wishing to take away the pain or sickness of a child.

            Just as Christ has compassion with our misery, we must remember that we are all under the curse of sin and death. Therefore, through the Holy Spirit, we are to show compassion to our fellow human beings in their misery.

            We bring the peace of God and the eternal hope that has been won for us by Jesus Christ our Lord. We are saved from that curse placed upon us so long ago. The sting of death has been delivered to the one who wished to kill us.

            We now carry the healing word of the great physician through Baptism by the Holy Spirit into the invulnerable body of Christ. Through the eating of the body and drinking of the blood from the sacrificial and victorious Lamb of God, the plague of sin and death is removed from our bodies.

We therefore put our hope in “that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” [Rom 8:21] That we, through the redemption of Christ’s saving work in his death on the cross, through his resurrection from the grave and victory over sin, death and the devil, have been saved.

            It is the Holy Spirit, who came to us in our baptism as the seed of life, who helps us in our weakness. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us and he who knows our hearts knows that the Spirit only intercedes for those who are of the Spirit.

            It is because of the grace of God that our sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us as children of God.