Sunday 6 June 2021: Trinity 1, Proper 5
Putting your hand in God’s hand
Genesis 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35
By Linda Lambert
Nationally accredited United Reformed Church lay preacher
Context: a small, elderly, well-educated congregation in a prosperous area just outside London
Aim: to encourage the congregation to keep their faith in God no matter what they face in their everyday life
The human condition has always had its ups and downs – at least since Adam and Eve bit into that apple. With their disobedience, God decided to sometimes step back and let what would be – be. He would let nature – both physical and human natures – take their course. That was true at the beginning and it is still true today. On the physical side, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, storms of all kinds and the floods that they often bring still ravage our planet. There have been plagues such as the Black Death which swept through much of Europe and beyond during the Middle Ages. Most of us would not directly blame God for these occurrences. ‘It’s nature taking its course,’ we would say. However, human nature also has played its part in disrupting the peace of our world. Greed, megalomania, carelessness, and just pure wickedness have also impinged on the welfare of the peoples of Earth. Then, too, there have been incidences when God, His patience stretched too far, decided to punish His people for their faithless or disobeying ways. Think of the great flood, the Babylonian exile, Jonah in the whale, and so much more. And yet, the over-riding message for us Christians today is Christ’s message of love. God loves us and will be with us through whatever life may throw at us.
2020 was a difficult year for the peoples of Earth. Not only were there the natural phenomena such as storms, earthquakes, etc., but there were also the power grabs of some nations, the political machinations aimed at upsetting the stability of various countries, and a growing dysfunctionality among peoples in places that had been considered stable. However, the over-riding and dominant thing that people will remember when 2020 is mentioned is Covid-19 and its various strains. At the start of the year few people had heard of it but by April the Covid pandemic was a fact around the world. It may or may not have been manmade. However, be that as it may, the fact is the virus swept around the world. Its spread was helped by those people who refused to believe that there was such a virus, those who couldn’t be bothered to wear a mask or to self-isolate when asked to. Human wilfulness in action, one could say. However, there were also great acts of self-sacrifice, kindness and a willingness to help others. The human race is, like the curate’s egg, some parts good, some bad.
As I sat in church one Sunday just before Christmas, masked and spaced a fair distance from my fellow church members, I listened to our minister speak about the difficulties that we had all had in the past year – the death of loved ones, the isolation that many felt, the restrictions that had been placed on all of us. Here it was – Advent – usually one of the most joyous times in the Church calendar and yet life felt pretty low. Even the final hymn – Joy to the World – seemed jarring somehow. And as I sat there, I thought – we aren’t the first generation to live through a period like this. My parents’ and grandparents’ generations during the two World Wars of the 20th century must have sat in their churches and had similar thoughts – would they see loved ones again? Would life ever go back to ‘normal’? What would the future hold? In most cases, they had no choice, they had to keep going forward, hoping, and praying that all would be well in the end. Knowing that God was with them would have been a comfort even in the darkest times.
For Christians throughout the millennia, the words of Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians must have given, and still do give, comfort and courage when times seem bad and out of our control. To paraphrase Paul’s words – ‘though our earthly body may die, those who love God and follow his teachings will have eternal life and live with Him and Christ in their heavenly home.’ Popular culture may phrase it in a different but equally meaningful way. Think of the Rodgers and Hammerstein song – ‘You’ll never walk alone’. Steadfast words that I think bring comfort to many people – not just Christians. I also often think of the words of Minnie Louise Haskins in her poem ‘God knows’. King George VI quoted that poem in the dark days of World War II. ‘Put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’ ‘God loves us and will be with us always’ – that’s Christ’s promise to all believers and it is as true today as it was when Jesus first walked on this earth. They are words to live by.
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