I am not sure how many of you are old enough to remember Charlie Brown (or is this similar to asking if you remember Ernie Harwell?) – but he was famous for saying, “Good grief!”. While I am not quite sure what Charlie Brown meant whenever he said, “Good grief,” it seems like it was more out of frustration than joy. However, today I am writing these words with joy.
While many people today are particularly troubled by the COVID-19 pandemic (If you are, I suggest you read a short article from the Mayo Clinic on “Coronavirus grief: Coping with the loss of routine during the pandemic”), I feel God is moving me beyond mere acceptance of the changes taking place through the dawn of new hope and into renewed joy and purpose (grief stages 6 and 7 – at least in my book). Not only can I see that “the harvest is plentiful” (Matthew 9.37), but I also see him answering the prayer of “the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9.38) Therefore I am urging “He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13.9)
Yesterday while reading Revelation 3 with a fellow growing disciple, we came across the words of Jesus (AKA “The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation” – verse 14) as he says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me.”(Revelation 3.20) Our conversation led us to the realization that, since these words are written to believers, it is not an invitation to come to faith, but to do something with our faith. Why? Because “the harvest is plentiful.”
We live in a world that is hurting, angry, and confused. Many dreams have been shattered; others exposed as lies. Some of the tragedies are purely personal, several lean toward being societal. Sadness, blaming, and denial abound. This tells me that volumes of the people around us are stymied in grief.
While this, in itself, is not good, it does mean that the world is hungering and thirsting for good news. And, behold, in our midst, we find Jesus “proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’.” (Mark 1.14-15) With that he immediately does two things. First, he recruits laborers to join in the harvest. And then he goes about healing the sick, casting out demons, feeding the hungry, … all the while proclaiming the good news with words that complimented his deeds. He turns their grief into good! Thus, my message this day – Good Grief – goes in two directions.
First to all of you who are hurting and stymied in grief. The Lord has not forgotten you. In fact, in his word he promises that he will carry you through this time and into a new time that is unimaginable. Jesus today says to you, “The one who conquers will be clothed in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.” (Revelation 3.5)
Secondly, to the rest of you (and probably all of us), Jesus says, “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.” (Revelation 3.8) It may look to you like Satan has opened the door to a Pandora’s box of evil and death in our world, but that is a deception. It is Christ Jesus who has opened the door … and it is opening the way to new opportunities for us to care for our grieving neighbors and be Christ in our communities.