Sometimes things in life just seem to pile up. We can go along carefree for a while and then things change. Life gets more stressful, issues seem to get heavier, and sure enough we realize that we’re under a lot of pressure-stress.
We’ve had a difficult election cycle that seems to be carrying on despite our weariness. The Coronavirus has picked up a huge head of steam in recent weeks, threatening our plans for the holidays and our sense of security. This nasty pandemic has affected work, school, worship, learning, fellowship, shopping—basically all aspects of our everyday lives. This week a couple more of our solid members have died. We give thanks for the witness and faith of Bobbi Tamke and Jim Eastman as we now grieve their deaths. They are non-Coronavirus deaths. Sometimes, it seems, things just seem to pile up.
I’m not here today to get you all depressed, but I think we must acknowledge the stress and strain we are under just to go about our daily lives. Even our Scripture lessons this morning seem to be dark and stressful.
St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, however, is based on the hope and promise of our lives in Christ. Last week we heard Paul talk about the promise of Resurrection in Christ, giving us something to hang onto when the Return of Christ seems to be taking a long time. Paul continues that discussion in today’s lesson.
He writes that the Coming of the Lord will be LIKE a thief in the night. It will be at the time we do not expect it, and it will come upon us quickly. I liken this to the recent deaths we have experienced the past couple weeks. They have been unexpected to us, and have happened faster than we have expected. For those who have faith in Christ, death is not the end of our existence, it is the time we go to be with the Lord. It is the time we enter into the eternal home prepared for us.
Paul’s writings to the Thessalonians remind us that these things are out of our control and we rely completely on the grace of God in Christ Jesus for hope and salvation. Paul says confidently, “But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are children of light and of the day…”
Those who are ready have made their peace with God; they know that God is in control and that all who believe will have no reason to fear. We don’t have to be in control, because of who God is—gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, as the Psalmist wrote.
While things may be out of our control, that is not a bad thing for us. God, who knows our needs, who knows our fears, failures, and who loves us in spite of them, is in control. God will bring the best out of the situation and will keep His children in His care. Paul proclaims that God has not destined us for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Though things may seem bleak, though the virus rages on for now, God is still in charge. God is not punishing us with this difficult time, but we know that life in this world is not perfected. God is with us as we go about our lives, and God has sent His Holy Spirit to live in us, and we are not alone. One of our oldest members, when I asked if this isolation was difficult for her, replied, “Oh no! I am never alone. I have a good family who looks after me, and God is always with me. I am in good hands.”
Her attitude is excellent, and her faith is incredibly strong. I gain a lot of strength and hope from folks like this, and I can surely feel God’s presence with them. “God has not destined us for wrath…” God has not put this difficult time before us, but God is with us in the struggle to find hope, to encourage us to remain faithful, and to be sharing our hope with others. Our Warm Hearts with Warm Soup ministry is going strong these days. There are gals that have been making soup for us to bring to someone who may be struggling or sad, or who has experienced a difficult time. We can get a container of delicious homemade soup to bring to a shut in or to anyone we think could use some cheering up. Mitzi or I can direct you to the soup and you can take it to someone yourself. Or, you can let us know and we will make sure that it gets to the person you’re thinking needs a little cheering up.
There are many things we can do in this time. A phone call can go a long ways in brightening someone’s day. Knowing we care helps others to find hope and strength.
At this point, until we have the vaccine readily available to all people, it appears that this virus is going to be with us a long while. It’s nothing to mess with, say those who I’ve talked with who have had it. We need to be vigilant, but we also need to remember that God controls the outcome and we are always in God’s loving hands. So as St. Paul writes in verse 11: “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”
In the midst of the darkness, morning will come. The sun will rise and a new day will brighten the horizon. There is hope, there is joy, because we are children of Light and we live in the Light of Christ now and always. AMEN