“Good Friday” and the world is convulsing with Coronavirus, overloaded medical facilities with folks dying by the hundreds, and the only end in sight is hopefully a vaccine that works, a worldwide economy in shambles, total disruption, and life forever changed in many ways. Not good anyway you cut it.
Three of the world’s great religions take this time to look back and remember times even more desperate and dismal, and to celebrate the redemption and hope that they promise.
To avoid famine in their homeland and because Abraham’s son, Joseph [of the flashy coat of many colors] had become the #2 guy in Egypt, second on to the Pharaoh … Joseph and his tribe had settled in Egypt. But, as we are now experiencing in 2020, things change. A new Pharaoh was in charge and Abraham and Joseph were long gone. And Abraham’s descendants had become slaves in Egypt. But in the depths of their despair God had promised escape. The whole tribe was to flee Egypt for a “promised land.” To facilitate their escape and sow confusion a plague of death was to kill the first-born of every Egyptian. Without 5G to know who was who, to indicate they were part of the tribe, Abraham’s descendants were to mark their doors with the red blood of a lamb so the “Angel of Death” would “pass over” and spare those families.
So for Jews, as well as their sister religions Christianity and Islam, Passover is a time to celebrate that no matter how dark and dismal things may seem, God does have a plan for his people and it is a plan for their good. So in the midst of darkness, there is hope!
Things couldn’t have been worse for the followers of Jesus! Their promised Savior had been crucified, killed, dead and buried. Their hopes had been crushed. There seemed nothing left but recriminations and “if only . . .”
But there was a slight glimmer of hope . . . a plan, a promise. And the incarnation of that promise, Christ himself, would burst out of the tomb and the Day of Resurrection which Christians celebrate as Easter. So there is hope! There is the promise of new life and resurrection. Evil will not win!
So that promise of hope for the future is good whether you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or any other religion or folks who have yet to discover some religious faith or have no faith. Bank on it: God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life and it is a plan for good!
God Doesn’t Live In A Box
The Bible tells us that God is a Spirit, and without delivering the full sermon, that all men are searching, groping as it were to make contact with the Spirit of God. If this were a sermon, the text would be from Acts 17.[Go ahead, look it up.] Paul, speaking at the Areopagus at the foot of Athens famed Parthenon. It’s just a big rock where people used to gather to discuss and argue various points of view. [You can still climb up the Areopagus rock if you are careful.]
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[b]
The “seek” image here is more like a blind man, groping in darkness to try and find something and get ahold of it. So all over the world in the guise of various religions or with no religion, and whether they know it or not, people are searching. Theologians, Moses, Paul, Muhammad, Popes, TV evangelists, fiery mullahs, charlatans, folks blasphemous enough to think that they, and only they, are God’s only chosen people . . . all they have God in their box. Almost like the proverbial jack-in-the-box, they think that they can understand and define the dimensions of God, and if they crank the box just so, out will pop their God.
But God is a Spirit and cannot be defined and confined by us. His Spirit breaks forth. Lest the people who left Egypt for the Promised Land be confused, God gave a powerful object lesson. The people carried with them the Ark of the Covenant, celebrating the covenant God had made with them. As they wandered the wilderness they took along a tent-type contraption of a temple that they would set up and take down when they camped along the way. In the center tent was in the “Holy of Holies” where this Ark was kept and it was there that God met his people. You might say that the children of Abraham had God in a box. But lest they be confused . . . lest they think they had God in their box . . . breaking out of the box was a powerful witness that the presence of God was greater than anyone might have imagined . . . a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
Today we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. The virus is no respecter of nations, polical systems, races, ethnic groups, or people. We are all in this together. Most of us today will have been “locked down” and confined to our homes, except for those folks who are just plain nuts, or addicted to taking chances, or live in crazy countries, states [Why does Florida comes to mind?], or municipalities whose leaders haven’t had the courage or common sense to implement restrictions.
Go To Sleep
Tonight, all over the world, we are going to lay down to go to sleep, hoping and praying for a better world tomorrow, one that is on the road to health, peace, and prosperity. With that, I hope this beautiful choral rendition of “Sleep,” performed by Eric Whitacre’s 2,000 voice choir, all connected by the Internet, singing as one, will give you hope for our one world. The grim reality of this disease is that many who lay down tonight will not wake up tomorrow. May they rest in peace, and may the God of all comfort, who does not live in anyone’s box, give them hope and sustain their loved ones.