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    “So We Do Not Lose Heart”

    June 7, 2015
    Filed Under:
    Pr. David

    Mark 3: 20-35, 2 Corinthians 4:13- 5:1

    A phrase that jumped out for me from today’s scripture readings, is in the 2nd reading, in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

    “So we do not lose heart.”
    What wonderful, supportive, encouraging words to the Corinthian Church!

    “So we do not lose heart.”

    Paul is writing an encouraging, confidence-boosting letter to the young Christian community in Corinth, reminding them that not only have they been given the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ, but also, that the awareness of this gift enables them, allows them, frees them, to live fully and joyfully in the present moment …
    … right in the midst of ordinary, complex, sometimes messy day by day realities of life,
    … in the middle of “momentary afflictions” that inevitably come our way.

    Paul is saying that the Corinthians have every reason to “not lose heart” because God is utterly and completely reliable and trustworthy.
    In the words of the Psalmist: God’s “steadfast love endures forever” (v.8), even “in the midst of trouble” (v.7).

    We need to keep reminding ourselves of this, because we know that life’s troubles and afflictions can be frequent, and many.

    Just over the past couple of days we’ve been hearing the hard and awful truths contained in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report on the broken and hurtful relationship between the aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples in Canada…

    …especially as it relates to the “residential schools” set up over a hundred years ago designed specifically for aboriginal children …

    … about how the aim of these schools was to try and rid aboriginal children of their first nations heritage and culture, and force them to take on British, English cultural forms …

    … all because of the basic, underlying bias and prejudice against aboriginal people and culture seen somehow as sub-human, inferior, not worthy of respect and dignity, objects either to be changed, or destroyed.

    And so, so what ended up happening in these schools was widespread psychological and physical abuse and neglect, even to the point of death in some cases.
    Some six thousand children died in these residential schools.
    “Cultural genocide.” Commissioner Justice Murray Sinclair has called it.

    And to imagine this happening on Canadian soil, and to varying degrees continuing to happen on Canadian soil, where aboriginal people often live in poverty and substandard housing with little or no access to clean water.

    In face of these sometimes overwhelmingly hard, and complex truths of our world and our own lives, a typical response, a very tempting human reaction we all know, is to be so overwhelmed, that one is paralysed, and withdraws into passive inactivity.

    In the words of Walter Brueggemann, we are constantly “in danger of being narcoticized” – sort of drugged up into inaction by the seemingly overwhelming force of the hard realities surrounding us.

    It’s so easy to simply accept discouragement, dismay, fear and anxiety as a normal, unchanging state of life …
    … to simply give assent to a world that does not work, to settle into a kind of chronic state of despair and hopelessness.

    The scriptures however – even the Gospel reading today – show us another way.

    “So we do not lose heart!”
    These life giving words of hope and confidence ring out, and cut to the heart, and lift up our souls:

    “So we do not lose heart.”
    Because Christ has been raised.
    The force of good that comes from God over-rides and fills the earth and us… in ways that are sometimes hard to see, but they’re there!

    God has destined the world for well-being.

    As Dr. Martin Luther King said:
    “The long arc of history is bent toward justice.
    The long arc of history is bent toward peace.
    The long arc of history is bent toward inclusiveness.”

    God is utterly reliable, completely trustworthy.

    This eye to the long view helps to give us a better perspective to our present day realities, helps us manoeuvre through them as tough and complex they may be, these “slight momentary afflictions” as the Apostle Paul puts it.
    As he goes on to say with confidence, “even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.”

    We see Jesus in the Gospel reading dealing with a “momentary affliction” – actually a very deep, troubling challenge, as he is confronted by people who mock him, and falsely accuse him.

    The scribes and religious leaders of the day falsely accuse Jesus of being demon-possessed.
    Even Jesus’ own family members believe he’s lost his mind.
    “He has gone out of his mind!” (v.21)

    Jesus must’ve been feeling immensely alone and isolated.

    And this awful, discouraging reaction by the people, even after all the good that Jesus was doing – all the healing and compassionate, forgiving love he was showing to the lonely, lost and least.
    This was their reaction.

    But Jesus does not “lose heart.”
    He keeps his eye fixed on the long view.
    He rebukes his accusers, and resolutely carries on, persistent in sharing God’s love, in sync with the energy of God’s life-giving and loving Spirit.
    Jesus presses on “even in the midst of trouble”, despite “slight momentary afflictions.”

    We do not lose heart.

    I love this true story coming out of Nashville Tennessee some years ago.

    A legislator, Stacey Campfield, had submitted a bill in the legislature, at the State House in Nashville, a bill related to the welfare support for poorer families, a bill proposing that if the grades of a child from a poor family went down, then less government money would be given to that family in need.

    So essentially, financial support would be linked to grade performance!
    Think about that.

    Now, for Aamira Fetuga, a girl who at the time was 8 years old, this was unacceptable.
    She and her family vehemently disagreed with the bill.

    And you know what she did?

    All day long, she followed Campfield around the State House, continually talking to him, nattering at him, and telling him how cruel his bill was.

    He tried to dismiss her, ignore her, shut her down.

    But Aamira was relentless, persistent, all day long.

    Finally, after a long day, Campbell relented, and withdrew his bill.

    Aamira kept at it.
    She did not lose heart.

    We do not lose heart.

    We can devote ourselves in our little patch of work where God has put us, persistently bearing witness to God’s goodness and presence …

    … and doing what we can …

    … all the while knowing we’re part of a larger story, part of God’s story of mending the universe, a story that will continue into the future long after our own work and our own lives are finished.

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