The 14th Sunday after Pentecost

I really don’t know how long it has been there. I don’t remember when I noticed that the floor wasn’t smooth. It was more out of the corner of my eye and I think it was only a few days ago. At a certain time of the day the sunlight shines and if you look you can see the floor terrain so to speak. They looked like blisters and I put it down to an old floor, though the flooring had gone down since we had been in the house. ‘Well they don’t make things like they used to’, I thought. On Monday the blisters were still there but I wasn’t paying attention. Tuesday … were the blisters larger? This time I looked carefully and now I didn’t like what I saw especially when I inspected things closely and got a portion of my sock wet. The water was evident. I rang for help and a few hours later the conclusion was evident that there is a leak (probably under the tiles) that needs to be fixed. Hardly a good time, I thought.

And then I chuckled. Troubles, hassles, diagnoses, and the like always interrupt something. No one wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I’d like a pandemic for the rest of the year please!’. In fact our tendency is to avoid bad news as much as possible. And we don’t tend to hear it well either. It is good advice to take someone with you when you’re going to hear a medical diagnosis precisely so what is said will be remembered – because there is a good chance you will not remember everything about your diagnosis.

I suppose there is some fear about an uncertain future when things look grim but most people can relate to denial or ‘putting off’ tough times. I mean, who wants to go through them? And it isn’t so much a matter of attitude – being positive or accused of being Pollyanna-ish. Attitude is important, there’s no denying it. But things can still be rough or grim or longsuffering and there’s nothing wrong with wanting wars to end, pandemics to be cured, relationships to be reconciled because they feel ruined, or any ‘bad’ thing to end. Things can be bad and bad news about them doesn’t change because of our attitude. And yet our attitude is important.

As is God. Where does he ‘fit’ in? I suppose it comes down to whether at heart God for you is more a Puppet Master – pulling all the strings – or more a Being that ‘goes with the flow’ that he has created. I’ve heard people described God as either and somewhere inbetween. We also need to locate our responsibility in this world about our behaviour. Are we responsible or do we secretly – or not so secretly – lay this world and ourselves at God’s feet and shrug while saying, ‘you made us’?

I think these types of questions coalesce, for Christians, in how they see and relate to Jesus. Jesus gives his life to us and with the guarantee of his love and mercy and forgiveness and guidance and strength but with no guarantee of it being on our terms (pain-free, affluent, hassle-free). Jesus doesn’t create misery for us but helps us in miserable times. Yes, Jesus could click his fingers and make things better but he more often stays with us as we do what we have to do each day. Sometimes we say that things did work out ‘miraculously’ and at other times we don’t say that. What is hard is that Jesus is mysterious. We say he loves us but that love doesn’t do what we think it should at times. So we pray with hope that Jesus will ‘fix’ whatever and we act as if we have to do our best to ‘fix’ things. No wonder we don’t want to go into problems and tough times!

And yet here is the certainty or the truth that helps us each day. Jesus does love us. Jesus is with us and he does help us. We still have to choose how to behave but we can work to do that not out of fear but confident that however tough things are, however mysterious Jesus seems, that Jesus is good and he will bring good out of it all. So we don’t despair, even as we sigh, and we face whatever it is knowing that it isn’t a punishment or a test but this is life in this world and Jesus has promised to help us live it one day at a time. GS