I believe that our Old Testament reading today is one of the most important readings to understanding the human condition and how our world works. It especially speaks to what we are facing here in Victoria, Australia, and no doubt around the world as we try to get on top of this Covid 19 pandemic. Have you been listening to the politics these days with the 4th lockdown in Victoria?
It’s Scott Morrisons fault because of his failed vaccine roll-out
It’s Scott Morrison’s fault because he should have built a new quarantine facility.
It’s Victorian Labor’s fault for not getting hotel quarantine correct.
It’s the contact tracing’s fault.
It’s South Australia’s fault for not testing the person correctly before releasing him to Victoria.
The woman YOU gave me, it’s her fault – she made me eat.
It’s the snake’s fault – he tricked me into eating.
Do you see where it’s all connected?
And do you see how in society today the division that is caused by this preference to blame others and vindicate ourselves from any blame? It causes us to go on the defensive – a tactic used since childhood:
You started – no, you did.
Jesus himself stated the very same thing in today’s Gospel reading when he said:
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. Is it any wonder that we just can’t get on top of this pandemic?
We have kingdom against kingdom with our international borders. We have houses divided against itself with our domestic borders. How on earth do we expect this to resolve if our primary aim is to vindicate ourselves and blame others?
It becomes the devil’s playground as Paul warned about in Ephesians chapter 4 when he said: In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. The devil looks for the tiniest entry point in to create division. And I don’t have to remind you of the divisions in our own church that threatens the future of our togetherness.
But let us not think that this is new in the church. No, St Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians was written because of division. Paul says to them: I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided?
It’s interesting that 1st Corinthians is one of the 2 bible texts on which our own church is divided on the matter of Ordination.
Division takes its toll. Look at what it has done to our churches. And with this pandemic, more and more people I speak to are becoming disillusioned about where we are heading with this as a society.
This is now our 4th lockdown and we have only just begun winter when we normally get hit with the flu and coughs and colds. We have some of our members who have not yet returned to gathered worship from the first lockdown and now we are into our 4th and our anxiety levels are growing. And let us spare a thought for our age care facilities who have locked out all visits which means our elderly who are already frail, vulnerable and lonely cannot have family members visit them. And those who are in hospital cannot have family or even a Pastor visit them unless they are at end of life.
Just when we thought we were about to remove bookings and restrictions we end up having to cancel our very first unrestricted church service because of an outbreak. But we are not to become disillusioned through this but strengthened. And that’s what Paul encourages today when he says:
Do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
There is a heavy burden on our society today because what can be seen is the weight of lockdowns – the weight of restrictions – the weight of the unknown – these are the things we see and if that was all we had then we would be weighed down severely. But, as Christians, we don’t just have what we see but we have our faith – what we do not see but what we know.
What we see is temporary.
What we don’t see is eternal.
That’s what Hebrews chapter 11 says also – faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Did you hear that – our confidence – our hope is in what we do NOT see.
The things we see, these are what cause us to doubt and fear. It can be very disheartening if we base our hopes and future on what we see. If we base our hopes and futures on security that this world offers – because this world cannot offer us any hope or security for the future. And any hope of the future can be ripped away from us in an instant by announcement of a lockdown.
But what we can put our hope in even if we cannot see it is our faith in God. We might not always understand what is going on but we always know that God is with us and that God is still in control of everything even if we cannot see it with our eyes. We have to believe that – what else is there to believe in? Even with Adam and Eve, despite removing them from the Garden of Eden, God did not abandon them .
Many scholars believe that the final punishment of the serpent, whom we believe to be Satan, is a reference to Christ when God says: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”
So let us listen carefully to what Paul said today: Do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
And the eternal we cannot see is our eternal life which is guaranteed by our Lord Jesus Christ in whom is all our faith.