This morning we are going to focus on the nurturing and preserving of hope for the future. This is at the heart of the 2 passages we have heard read . The passages tell us that we currently experience a world where heartache and destruction and suffering are mixed in with happiness and comfort and wonder. Life is like a field full of both flowers and weeds that brings joy and frustration in equal measure.
A disabled theologian opened my eyes to the acceptable truth that life is a mixed blessing in a book called ‘The Wounded God’. There is freedom in acknowledging this I think. We don’t have to pretend it’s all fantastic ..because it isn’t .. and both the passage from Romans and the Gospel passage acknowledge this.
St Paul tells us ‘the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies’ ‘for the creation was subjected to futility’ he tells us by the will of the Creator.
Why would God chose to subject the creation She loves .. ‘I use the female form for God here because God is without gender but I think it highlights the mother’s love God has for us’. Imagine a mother God subjecting her children to suffering.. Why would this be?
In the Gospel passage we are given some indication of why because Jesus tells us in order to protect and nurture the growth of her children God does not pull out what is producing suffering and heartache in the world. The weeds are not removed yet as it would damage and destroy all that is good in the world too!
And so we are subject to a life in which both blessing and suffering grow in equal measure .. not as a result of our actions but because God has allowed all the seeds of life to flourish good and bad.
How on earth can we get through this in which suffering and pain can be all around us? How does it help to be a Christian? What does Jesus tell us about this situation? What is St Paul’s message to us? In all this we are called to ‘hope’ in a better future.
For Jesus tells us ‘the Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers … then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father!’ So there is a hopeful future for all who trust in Jesus. Simple trust in Jesus’ promise to return and his promise to root out the causes of suffering and sin allows us to ‘hope’ in an eternal existence which is free from the weeds of heartache and pain.
This is such an important message .. so crucial to our current generation and modern world. I recently read in an excellent article about ecology in our modern world that ‘our cultural problem is .. the virtual absence of images of a good, decent, beautiful future’. In interviews with young students the writer finds in the words of one student ..’i’m 20 years old and all my life I’ve been told it’s too late.’
A lack of hope is a huge problem in our world. A society which looks around and sees the weeds and the grain side by side, growing equally, is never free from some sense of despair. But we as Christians are called to believe in a better future .. a time of harvest when this will be dealt. A harvest time in which the good seed is celebrated and the bad seed is rooted out of our existence.
There is hope in such a message. A message of future glory .. and as St Paul puts it ‘the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us’. ‘ For creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God’.
This then is what the Church can offer this world which is looking for an image of a good, decent, beautiful future. A message of hope! That even though life is a mixed blessing for us now .. which it is .. our future is one of hope in a perfected and good humanity .. what a wonderful hope .. a time when all that is good abounds and all that is bad is destroyed! This is the Christian future.
As St Paul reminds us .. based on the Gospel he has received from Christ .. ‘For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.’
May we ourselves wait in hope and may we proclaim that hopeful future to all who are in despair and heartache.