WS Update: Pain And Hope

June 19, 2023

In yesterday’s worship service, I reflected on a text (Acts 19:11-20) that reminds us that the world is enveloped in what Christians identify as ‘spiritual warfare. In the words of the Apostle Paul, there is a cosmic power of evil at work (Ephesians 6:12) that leaves the whole creation groaning “as in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8:22); a phrase that means a pain that carries with it “the hope of new life for all creation.” I was thinking about that phrase in light of today’s holiday (Juneteenth) which marks the relaying of news to 250,000 slaves in Texas of their emancipation 2.5 years after Lincoln’s declaration.  

It is a day that captures the sense of pain and hope in Paul’s phrase. On the one hand, it reminds us of our brutal history of inhumane, evil, and violent treatment of fellow image-bearers. The holiday also reminds us that despite the groaning experienced in our world, there is liberation coming. This optimistic understanding of history has nothing to do with the better angels of our nature, but with the new nature given to us by the Spirit because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He is the one who came and announced that his mission was to bring about the ‘year of the Lord’s favor’ (Luke 4:19) when swords will be beaten into plowshares. Jesus is the hope of the world, and the power to set us free from the idols that rob us of our humanity, and too often the humanity of others.

He (Jesus) went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”   – Luke 4:16-21

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