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Labor Pains


Romans 8: 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

In the next few days or so one of our younger church sisters will give birth to her first child. Her name will be “Cara” which I keep telling her mother, “It means joy!”  This husband and wife are so excited about the birth of this child and that she is healthy!  Every parent is, of course, but for this couple, Cara is a miracle child.  You see in the husband’s family there is a rare genetic condition that causes early termination of embryos that are not viable and there is a 50% chance that if a fetus makes it to birth that he will have serious malformations.  But Cara is perfect!  Thanks be to God! They know that already because they did the testing even before she was conceived to see if they could actually have children.  Soon we will get to meet Cara and then God will baptize her and adopt her into his precious, holy family of faith.  What joy these events will be!  But first, mom will have to endure some pain.  Extreme pain. Labor pain.  The kind of pain that if you did not know what was happening you might think you were being split in half and on the verge of death.  The kind of pain that literally takes your breath away it is so violent.

The holy, catholic and apostolic church is in great pain.  I see it in every corner of its existence, do you?  I see congregations torn apart by conflict, searching to find some sense of purpose and meaning.  I see pastors fraught with anxiety, unsure of their vocational calling.  I see colleagues failing to support one another on the journey because pride gets in the way.  I see denominations cracking and splitting at the seams because of social issues, biblical hermeneutics and down-right-shameful behavior amongst its members.  And then comes the pile on!  And the pain gets worse and worse, it festers and seeps and takes lives.

This is not what we had in mind when we became pastors or leaders in the church.  This is not what we signed up for when we affirmed our baptism in our local parish!  We are stuck either running away to get some relief or confronted head on by our own disillusionment, which at times seems to be the ONLY thing that is growing.

Do we even recognize most days that the church is part of this labor-pain-groaning that St. Paul talks about?  Or do we sweep it under the proverbial rug and say to ourselves and others, “It’s okay.  This too shall pass!”  Acknowledging the situation seems to me to be the first step toward a deeper reliance upon Christ and an awareness that maybe, just maybe, God is up to something among us, his church.

St. Paul wrote, “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that WILL BE revealed to us.”  (NIV says “in us.”) He saw the suffering.  Instead of languishing in it, instead of throwing a massive pity party he cast a vision of hope. . .

He goes on, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

What if this pain that we feel all around us in the church and in the whole creation is nothing less than God’s subjection to a kind of labor pain?  What if God is working something out in this imperfect system we call the communion of saints?  What if we would acknowledge that God is behind all of this and that we cannot know what is coming. . . like that mother who is experiencing the greatest pain of her life, who if she didn’t know better would think she was dying (and actually could) but in a few hours she will hold in her arms the greatest gift that she has ever received?  She will look at the baby’s face as she is swaddled and placed in her arms for the very first time and think to herself, “I had no idea I was capable of this kind of love.”

What if God is moving us, through the power of the Spirit, to something more wonderful, more amazing, more life giving than we could have ever imagined?  A place where we will be liberated from captivity, freed from bondage and decay, given a new reality where we will say, “I had no idea that life could be this wonderful!”  We have to go through the pain in order to give birth to what God is doing among us.  We have to hold on through the gut wrenching, side splitting, heart breaking angst we are feeling.  We have to breathe through each and every contraction so that God can give help us give birth to whatever is coming.  But the promise is, like the joy of a newborn child, that we will be so satisfied, so thrilled, so pumped with adrenaline that we will say, “I can’t imagine my life the way it used to be, this is so amazing!”  Amen.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Fr. Joseph Summerville permalink
    20September2011 08:36

    Thank you. I am, well, speechless. AMEN!

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