Christ cross

Saturday Sermon: In Difficult Times—Hold on to Christ, to the Cross, to the Church | Faith

I thought after so much time dealing with the pandemic, things would return to normal and life would be less stressful. People have grown tired of shutdown activities, postponed weddings and even funerals, and isolation.

While we are still encouraged to take the vaccine and its new booster, things have opened up. We are back to the usual gatherings – worship, weddings, funerals, youth gatherings, vacation Bible school, camps, picnics and festivals, sporting events, family gatherings, potlucks and fellowship opportunities at churches and fundraisers. But canceling events has been replaced by canceling people. Rising tensions, lack of civility, terrorist acts and threats of violence, messages painted on churches and demonstrations are back. In May, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the office of an organization. In June, a gunman was arrested while planning to kill a Supreme Court justice and protesting at his home.

People past and present are reviled. Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans reminds us: “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. As a friend of mine shared, “Everyone has things in their life that they’ve done or said, and wish they hadn’t.” And the Psalmist shares, “Lord, if you wrote down what was wrong, who could put up with it?” The answer is — nobody. Very often, imperfect people expect perfection (or at least their version of perfection) from other imperfect people.

The pandemic seemed to put an end to or at least minimize the violence in society. But now that things are more open, it’s back. Sad but true. With this crisis and others that followed, some people stepped up to do good and help their neighbors. And crises bring people closer to God or push them away.

What is the “new normal”? I would like to say it’s “Happy Days” again. But Putin invaded Ukraine and, without regard for human life, destroyed cities, schools, hospitals and homes. Ukrainians had to bury their citizens, including children, and flee to neighboring countries. Others stay and fight the evil that has come.

Our country is experiencing rising inflation, a doubling in gasoline prices, continued shortages in the supply chain, and the rise and fall of a volatile stock market. There is now an extreme shortage of infant formula.

Those wishing to purchase new vehicles find themselves with limited choices on the car lot. We had the mass shooting at a school in Uvalde with the deaths of 19 children and 2 teachers, followed by 20 more shootings and counting across our country in the week that followed.

President Theodore (“Teddy”) Roosevelt was told by his father, “Teddy, when you go out into the world, you must have scripture and prayer, scripture and prayer. He learned the truth of his father’s words when he experienced a crisis in his life, the loss of his two great loves within hours of each other – the death of his wife and mother. But he persevered.

During World War II, England suffered heavy losses due to the onslaught of Germany. But Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a major contribution to the final victory over the enemy. He inspired the British people to greater effort with his timely public broadcasts.

On October 29, 1941, Churchill gave a speech at Harrow School. Part of the speech included the following sentence: “Never, never, in anything big or small, big or small, never yield to anything but the convictions of honor and common sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the seemingly overwhelming power of the enemy. He also used the phrase “never, never, ever give up”.

In all that we have been through, I prayed that people would see the importance and the necessity of Christ, the Cross and the Church.

We can be so much stronger and better able to face challenges and rightly thank God when things are going well. It is Christ who promises to always be with us on our journey, no matter what we may face. We are never alone or alone. In our baptism we are connected to the Cross. In Jesus’ cross, crucifixion and resurrection, our salvation is sure – the defeat of sin, death and Satan. By our baptism, we are part of the divine creation of the Church by God. As we come together Sunday after Sunday in Church, we experience the presence of Christ. It is in the gathered community of the Church that we are prayed, loved, encouraged, forgiven, nourished and strengthened. It is in the Church that we receive this nourishment necessary for our daily journey of faith and life.

In life’s challenges, tragedies, troubles, and crises, we move closer or further away from God. And that choice is ours. Saint Paul learned the secret not to let the negative and brutal things happen around him or to deprive him of joy – Jesus Christ. Practicing and living our faith is not a matter of convenience, but of commitment. So, “Never, ever give up!”