THE PANIC BUTTON
Happy Sunday, my WBC friends and family!
In one of my personal devotions this week, I was reminded that, as the Body of Christ in the world today, we’re not pushing the panic button — we are the panic button. We’re the ones people come to for help and relief. We’re called to suffer like Christ for the world around us. As Richard Rohr says, “That’s the real meaning of the word ‘suffer’ – to allow someone else’s pain to influence us in a real way.”
That message goes right to the heart of Lent and Easter. Jesus Christ became one of us to suffer with us and for us so that we could be forever with him and for the world. I hope today’s Sunday Morning Devotional will help you experience not only a little bit more of our Suffering Savior and the healing he brings, but also help you draw closer to your own neighbors, even as we must continue to draw apart in other ways.
God of this very moment, we thank you for sending your Son to us as a reminder that you are a God who suffers compassionately and in whose life, death, and resurrection we are empowered to do the same. Guide us this morning by your Word and your Holy Spirit, so that in your light we might see light, and in your truth, we might find freedom, and in your will, we might truly discover peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Romans 12:9-17; Hebrews 4:15
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all…
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.
Hymn “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by R. Robinson & J. Wyeth
Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above!
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love.
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here by Thy great help I’ve come,
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God.
He to rescue me from danger
Interposed his precious blood.
Oh, that day when freed from sining
I shall see Thy lovely face.
Clothed there in blood-washed linen,
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace.
Come my Lord, no longer tarry —
Take my ransomed soul away!
Send Thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless days.
Oh, to grace, how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.
Prone to leave the God I love!
Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
One phrase from Romans 12 has always stuck out to me: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” Those ten words are the story of the cross in a nutshell. They’re the story of Jesus’ whole entire life — God becomes one of us to die and rise for us so that we could be one with him and with each other. They’re the story of real community born in shared suffering.
Back when we’d take vacations to Colorado as a kid, I’d sit up front with my dad and my Rand McNally atlas pointing out to him everything we saw as it sped by. I’ve always been a fan of maps. The change of terrain from the brown-dry plains of my hometown of Dallas to the pronghorn-covered Capulin Volcano in northern New Mexico to the billowy dunes that line the western slopes of Colorado’s Sangre de Christo mountains — all of this was simply fascinating to me. Every few hours, I got to see something completely different, and maps were my way of organizing and putting names to this landscape of contrasts.
I still love maps. But this week, I ran across one that was much different from my 1980s road atlas. It didn’t show any geographical contrasts. It showed instead one single, remarkable moment of shared suffering. Everyone in every country everywhere was in some way affected by the coronavirus. That map showed me that we were all the same.
This past week, David Brooks noted in his Times column that this sameness lies at the heart of what we call social solidarity. Solidarity is built upon the very biblical belief that we’re all created in the image of God and that, as such, we all share an inherent dignity and obligation to one another. “Solidarity is not a feeling,” Brooks says, “it’s an active virtue…It’s solidarity that causes a Marine to risk his life dragging the body of his dead comrade from battle to be returned home. It’s out of solidarity that health care workers stay on their feet amid terror and fatigue. Some things you do not for yourself or another but for the common whole.”
It would seem that we have a choice between two roads. The reality of a global pandemic can drive us to fight in the aisle over toilet paper, or it can lead us to a renewed sense of solidarity born in shared suffering, like what we saw happen in quarantined Italy as neighbors threw open their windows and bellowed the Bella Ciao together. Or in Dallas, where they sang Lean on Me. Or even here in Wyoming, where kids followed suit and serenaded Burns Avenue with everything from trumpets to violins. Certainly this is a taste of what it means to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.
There’s something strangely beautiful in all these stories of solidarity. I say strange because what they show us is that, at the heart of such shared suffering, there is real joy. Over the next few weeks or months even, we’re all going to get a little stir-crazy. Our funds are going to tighten up. Our personalities are going to rub us raw. Our houses are going to get a little too clean. But, we can remember that we’re all doing this for each other. As strange as it seems, I can’t hug you because I love you. I can’t see you today because I want to see you tomorrow. When Jesus took up his cross, he did it willingly because he knew suffering was what it was going to take to make sure that we all lived. And, I can’t imagine that didn’t make him smile.
Prayers for Our World
Right before Paul counsels us in Philippians 4 to “cast all our cares” upon God so that we can receive “the peace that surpasses all understanding,” he once again talks about rejoicing. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say, rejoice!” Rejoicing, being thankful, remembering the often very little things that make us grateful — this is one of the first practical steps we can take to combatting the fear and worry in our lives today. So, this morning in our own homes, let’s thank God first and foremost for the little things in our lives that make us rejoice. Speak them out loud and then say, “Thank you, God, for your grace.” I’ll tell you mine to start. I’m thankful for two healthy kids who like to be tickled and for a spouse who is patient and strong. And, I’m thankful for the little joys of dancing and splashing in rain puddles. Thank you, God, for your grace.
Now, it’s your turn…
As the Body of Christ in the world today, we are the panic button, and we are being pushed. Let us respond eagerly in prayer for our neighbors, our strangers, and our world…
• For quick and continued containment and healing in China, Italy, Iran, France, Spain, South Korea, Washington, California, and New York, where the coronavirus has so far hit the hardest.
• For the physical, mental, and spiritual health of all our family, friends, and neighbors, who are walking this same, strange path with us.
• For protection for those among us who are most susceptible to the worst of the virus, our elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
• For the safety of those who must receive treatment or surgery unrelated to the coronavirus during this time.
• For the continued wisdom and health of the leaders of our local, state, and national governments, who are working to bring an entire world safely through this crisis.
• For the necessary financial assistance, now and in the future, for all who have been forced to close their businesses during this time.
• For the health and determination of our doctors and nurses and researchers, who are the front lines in this battle against the coronavirus.
• For the joy and strength of our fellow churches here in Wyoming and Cincinnati and across the world, who are called to be a source of hope and life to a hurting world.
• For protection and healing for all people and peoples around the world, especially for the most vulnerable who suffer without access to quality healthcare or the capability to self-quarantine.
• For all those who have died this week because of this virus, that God would receive them into his open arms of love.
Suffering God, you rejoice when we rejoice and you weep when we weep. That is what it means for you to have sympathy with our weaknesses. You feel our pains and experience our joys, just as we feel and experience yours. Hear these prayers that we’ve prayed this morning, and help us to know the real joy of shared suffering this week. Amen.
For further reflection on today’s theme, check out the following:
David Brooks’ New York Times article on solidarity
Richard Rohr’s reflection on the suffering love that overcomes fear
An interview with Jamil Zaki, a Stanford psychologist, about the ways technology can help us create solidarity