“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that 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. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and 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. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”—Romans 8:18-25
Today I had the blessing of leading morning devotion at Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation. This reflection is an outgrowing from that experience.
I believe strongly in communal wisdom, especially when it comes to trying to understand God and Creation. This morning was an exercise in discerning God within Creation, following the words of the passage. I will outline our process and provide responses from the faculty and staff of Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation and then ask you, the readers, to join in sharing communal wisdom.
“We are in the midst of the season of Advent—a time of waiting, a time of hope, a time of action. We have heard in this passage that all of Creation is also waiting, hoping to be liberated by the children of God. Indeed, Creation is groaning with labor pains. Now, only some of the women here can truly attest to what labor pains feel like. All of us, however, can groan with the feeling of our bodies being stretched, with energy waiting to burst forth. Let’s stand and stretch our hands to the heavens as far as we can. Now let’s release the sighs and groans that are deep down in our bodies. Imagine those groans all the more so coming from all of Creation!
Paul writes about the sufferings of this present time, the sufferings that cause us and Creation to groan. Let us share some of the sufferings we see causing pain to this world and society. As we each say something, we will repeat: ‘Creation groans, and we groan.’
I will start. I know that you have all seen the news of one shooting massacre after another in the United States. Even more than that, there are individual shootings everyday because of my country’s refusal to restrict access to guns. This is especially devastating for my home city of Chicago. Creation groans, and we groan. Now let’s hear from others.
Gender-based violence. Creation groans, and we groan.
The closing of the mines and loss of employment for so many. Creation groans, and we groan.
Child defilement. Creation groans, and we groan.
Childhood marriages. Creation groans, and we groan.
Global warming and our refusal to act. Creation groans, and we groan.
Poverty. Creation groans, and we groan.
Paul also writes about hope, seemingly the central theme of this passage and definitely a central theme of Advent. All of us have hopes for this world. We have hope for solutions to the causes of suffering listed above. We should have hope for transformation in this world, for if not, I don’t think we could call ourselves Christians. Now let’s mention what we hope for as we groan with Creation. Let’s say: ‘O Lord, we have hope!’
Again I will start. I have hope for a change of hearts and minds in the United States so that legislation will be enacted to stop the easy flow of guns. I also have hope for changes in societal systems that will reduce violence. O Lord, we have hope!
For employment opportunities for those who have lost jobs and those who did not have jobs to begin with. O Lord, we have hope!
For an end to violence against women and children. O Lord, we have hope!
For rains to come so that crops will be nourished. O Lord, we have hope!
For peace in the countries in Africa and the Middle East that are being torn apart by war. O Lord, we have hope!
The good news of the passage is that the sufferings of the present time do not even begin to compare to the glory that is coming! Paul makes it clear that we, the children of God, are part of the glory for Creation. It is we who must liberate Creation from all this decay and suffering that we have caused. We are empowered to be part of the glory of God, to continue the work of the Kin-dom! Now let us share in whom or what we have hope. For, Creation waits for the freedom of the glory of the Children of God. Creation has hope in our glory, which came those many years ago in a manger. As we share, let’s say: ‘Glory will come!’
I have hope in Zambian communities. I have seen communities coming together to share resources with those who need them most, to grieve together, and to celebrate together. I need to teach this type of community to my own context. I also have hope in my 5-year-old sister Isabelle, who approaches life with a joy that gives me joy. Glory will come!
Hope in the scientific and technological advances that are leading to lifesaving treatments for people living with HIV and AIDS. Glory will come!
Hope in my marriage with my wife and the fact that God is at our center. Glory will come!
Hope in the children. Glory will come!
Hope in the students at this institution. Glory will come!
Now let’s all stand again and stretch our hands to the heavens. Let’s groan. Let’s shout the we have hope. Let’s cry, ‘Glory!’”
For my readers, if you would like to add your wisdom to that of the community, go through the stretch and the groan and then share something for each of the categories.