Surely one does not turn against the needy,when in disaster they cry for help. Did I not weep for those whose day was hard? Was not my soul grieved for the poor? I go about in sunless gloom; I stand up in the assembly and cry for help…My lyre is turned to mourning, and my pipe to the voice of those who weep. (From Job, Chapter 30)
Beloved in the Lord:
We are all passing through a time of trials, the latest being the destructive fires spreading across our state, and especially in our own county. The reading from the Book of Job this morning spoke to the sense of loss and anxiety surrounding us right now—who will ever forget the “sunless gloom” of these last few days? Holy Scripture teaches us to make an offering of our heart to God, including our anxiety and sorrows. It also teaches us to reach out in compassion and care for those in need even as we sorrow, and I commend the practice of donation to local relief agencies, as well as in-kind gifts and the simple act of making a phone call or offering to help a neighbor while we pray for the end of these fires and for rain to return to our area.
Today’s reading from Acts, chapter 14, provides another way of being faithful and encouraged during these hard times. After St. Paul and his companions survived many trials on their mission (including being left for dead after a stoning), they returned to Antioch, relating their experience to the church there. In utter frankness, St. Luke remarks: “There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, ‘It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.’” We need to hear this.
Following Jesus includes moments of great joy and comfort, but it also includes seasons of great trial with moment-by-moment reliance on God. Our daily recommitment to the Lord is not a quaint custom: it is a vital renewal in the sources of our faith and our ability to live and share the Gospel in hope. These are exceptional, yet not unexpected, days—as it is written: “it is through many persecutions [and struggles] that we must enter the kingdom of God.” The manna we receive through prayer, scripture, and staying in contact with each other is essential, perhaps now more than ever. Like St. Paul, we will eventually arrive back home from our difficult journey, and what a story we will have to tell! We look forward to that day, even as we journey through this smoky, difficult season. Keep the faith, and lean on God and each other, reaching out in loving service and constant prayer.
A Prayer for Rain:
O God, heavenly Father, who by thy Son Jesus Christ hast promised to all those who seek thy kingdom and its righteousness all things necessary to sustain their life: Send us, we entreat thee, in this time of need, such moderate rain and showers, that we may receive the fruits of the earth, to our comfort and to thy honor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.