Clergy View: From uff da to alleluia
As I write, our Brainerd lakes area is regaining traction after Monday morning's ice. (Hopefully, no one's in traction because of a fall.)
Just before and right after Christmas, in these last few weeks, we've witnessed a federal government shutdown, an earthquake and its aftershocks in Alaska, a plummeting and rising stock market and contentious public discourse. And just when you thought you could escape craziness for even a couple of hours, the Vikings and Packers fail to make the playoffs and the Bears lose in the first round when the game-winning field goal double-doinked an upright and crossbar. Uff da! Bears fans, Vikings fans feel your pain.
Want relief? If you're like me, you don't merely want relief—you crave it! Volatility is everywhere, whether in nature, government, economics, relationships or sports, and brings loads of uncertainty and unwelcome change. So I invite you to come to the Changeless One: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus invites us to turn to Him as the only abiding source of healing, comfort and relief here on earth. "Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest ... for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28, 29).
When we read the Bible, more than paragraphs, people and places appear. The words that are read gift and grant what they say. Rest, rescue, and relief become ours along with faith, forgiveness and the ability to forgive the offenses of others. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred by the Gestapo in 1945, explains what happens when we heed Jesus' invitation and read the Bible:
"We become part of what once took place for our salvation. Forgetting and losing ourselves, we, too, pass through the Red Sea, through the desert, across the Jordan into the promised land. With Israel we fall into doubt and unbelief and through punishment and repentance experience again God's help and faithfulness. All this is not mere reverie but holy, godly reality. We are torn out of our own existence and set down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth. There God dwelt with us, and there He still deals with us, our needs and our sins, in judgment and grace. It is not that God is the spectator and sharer of our present, howsoever important that is; but rather that we are the reverent listeners and participants in God's action in the sacred story, the history of the Christ on earth. And only insofar as we are there, is God with us today also."
Jesus' invitation comes with a surprise: the Changeless One, here for you and me, will change us that we may be like Him! Unsettling? Only to the sinful nature! Outlook, attitudes, and actions undergo transformation. The old is gone; the new has come. Forgiven by grace, past guilt needn't burden us. Faith holds the promise of Christ's care so that we rest present days and the future in Him alone. We also look at others as we look at ourselves, as people for whom Jesus Christ has come. We live in the confidence that He who restores His relationship with us also works in us to restore our relationships with one another.
But don't take my word for it. Take Jesus' word, read it, and participate in the divine story that includes you. "Me, in a divine story?" you ask. As you read, Jesus will change your "uff da" to "alleluia!"
For further reading: 2 Corinthians 5, "the new has come" and Philippians 2, "the mind of Christ."
Gregg Coop is pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Baxter.