We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So, death is at work in us, but life in you.
But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture— “I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
--2 Corinthians 4: 8-14--
The Apostle Paul is not a barrel of laughs. Which is fair, his life was spectacularly difficult. Struck blind once (it didn’t take), ship-wrecked several times, beaten and left for dead several times, bullied, threatened with regularity it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to be a laugh-a-minute kind of guy.
Despite the obstacles that he was forced to endure, the thorn in the flesh and a number of betrayals at the hands of friends and colleagues he is able to put all of that into perspective as part of God’s work. And because it is work done on God’s behalf it becomes a beautiful gift of gratitude in response for the grace that God has shown to him.
It is a very transformative perspective.
It transforms injustices visited upon us into thanksgiving rendered to God for being included in the Kingdom of Heaven.
I doubt Paul enjoyed any of the obstacles as they were happening. His writing suggests that the many betrayals resulted in lingering pain and distress. Which he transformed through the grace of God into evidence that he was working to advance God’s holy Kingdom.
And here we sit dismayed that a Pandemic, which has claimed many lives already isn’t going away anytime soon. I think Paul would look at us kind of funny if we suggested that things should be easier. I can imagine him asking us when the last time was that we were shipwrecked, beaten near to death, or bitten by poisonous snakes and waiting eagerly for us to share our stories of hardship.
Not that we don’t experience hardship.
I don’t mean to make light of the many burdens we are carrying primarily because of this pandemic that shows no sign of ending. I just want to add some perspective.
While we live, there is yet hope. We are most definitely alive. Because we are alive, we will face new challenges and we will be changed.
One of the new challenges we will face will be with our Ministry of Music. Carolyn has decided that the time has come for her to step away from organ bench, piano stool and choir directing. It was not an easy decision for her to make. In fact, I expect it was far more painful for her to make that decision that it has been for all of us to hear it.
If we have ever been grateful for the gracious way that she has served the Ministry of Music at George Street now would be the time to honour that graciousness with gratitude and thanksgiving. Rather than worry about what next, we can focus on what Carolyn has meant to us as a congregation and what it means for us to know that Carolyn is still a member of George Street United Church.
Her contribution to this particular ministry does not mean that Carolyn will not be providing some kind of ministry somewhere else, and we should make every effort to support her in whatever new ministry she takes on. Because as she is part of our congregation everything, she does is work we do within the wider community.
As we grow, we must be changed until the day we are as holy as our Father in heaven is holy. May God bless you in these uncertain days.
-Reverend John Maich