Comfort in the midst of troubling times

Eric Cravey
Posted 5/11/17

FLEMING ISLAND – In the book of Matthew, Jesus responds to his disciples on the Mount of Olives when they asked him about the “end of the age.”

He warned them in Matthew 24:6-7 that “You …

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Comfort in the midst of troubling times

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – In the book of Matthew, Jesus responds to his disciples on the Mount of Olives when they asked him about the “end of the age.”

He warned them in Matthew 24:6-7 that “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.”

Today, with the unrest in North Korea, the ongoing civil war in Syria, bombings in cities around the world and gun violence and protest marches here in the U.S, it could be easy for Americans to worry about where society – and the world – is heading. But what about Christians and the church today? Some area pastors believe the weary can still find comfort in church.

“A question we are answering in these difficult times is, “Where do you take refuge?” While some believe that the church has lost its relevance in people’s lives, I strongly believe that it is times like these that our faith matters the most,” said Pastor Heather Harding of Fleming Island United Methodist Church.

Harding also has a few questions of her own when it comes to dealing with difficult times. She asks “What do we cling to? Where do we put our trust?”

“In a time where news comes in different flavors of opinions and Scripture comes with different

interpretations, we find ourselves in need of some absolutes to hold onto in a changing world. I believe that Jesus gave us those absolutes in Luke 10:27, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself,’” Harding said.

Harding said she often recommends parishioners unplug from the noise, limit the amount of time they spend watching 24/7 cable new stations and simply turn to God.

“When we choose the love of a political party over love of our neighbor, this is a place of false refuge,” Harding said. “As we take time to ponder and meditate on passages of Scripture for how they speak to our own hearts instead of using them to decide what is right or wrong for someone else, we grow in the love of God and neighbor.”

She said the goal is to become more loving in the face of challenging times.

“When we become more whole and loving, our interactions with the world become more whole and loving,” Harding said. “Jesus practiced a radical hospitality to those who were in need of healing and showed us the way he wants us to act in the world. He didn’t sit inside the temple and guard wealth, but instead gave his life for the wholeness of others.”

Another cause of unrest in America is violence, whether it be civilian shootings or police shootings. According to a report in The Economist, in the 50 largest U.S. cities, the homicide rate was lower in 2016 than it was in 2007, and for the 26 years before that, however, many polls show citizens believe crime is rampant despite no numbers to back up that claim.

Again, Harding said love is part of, if not the answer to ending fear.

“We can have angry debates on social media that go nowhere or we can get out there in the world and set about the business of loving our neighbors,” Harding said. “Likewise, we are to use all of the resources we have to participate in building up the kingdom of God through helping the poor, healing the sick, providing release to those who are oppressed, and visiting those who are lonely and in prison.”

Matt Owen, lead teaching pastor at Community Bible Church of Orange Park, points out that despite the inspiring words of love that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in his famous “I Have A Dream” speech 50 years ago, division still exists.

“The dream of unity and peace has never been fully realized in spite of our best efforts through legislation, education, and awareness raised through demonstrations,” Owen said. “We can be thankful for any gains these efforts have accomplished, but none of those things address the ultimate problem.”

Owen said the gospel of Jesus answers the questions society has when it comes to a lack of unity and peace in the world.

“Acts 10:36 tells us that God sent a word, a message, of the good news of peace through Jesus Christ who is Lord of all. Broken relationships are the side effects of a more fundamental broken relationship that all human beings experience. That most fundamental of relationships is our broken relationship with our Creator because of sin,” Owen said.

According to Owen, one can gain comfort by ensuring they have reconciled their sins through Jesus.

“When that most fundamental relationship is restored, the ripple effects of that reconciliation become visible in our human relationships,” Owen said. “This ought to be clearly seen in the Church, where those who have been reconciled to God by faith in Jesus live out the implications of the gospel with each other in spite of the differences that might separate them outside those walls.”

Owen said that Jesus provides all of the tools the world ever needs to create authentic unity and peace.

“The gospel of Jesus Christ enables Christians to live at peace with those who differ with them,” Owen said.” Romans 12:18 instructs us that if possible, as far as it depends on us, we are to live peaceably with all. And at the heart of our faith is a Savior who died, even for his enemies.

“Jesus gives the world the hope it needs for peace and unity. He gives us peace with God which enables us to turn and live at peace with each other.”

The Rev. Christopher M. Klukas of The Church of the Good Samaritan Anglican in Middleburg said every generation has had to learn how to cope with crisis. And, through it all, God was there.

“The issues of the day change from year to year, and each generation offers its own challenges, but there are always challenges. With everything being so ‘up in the air’ it can be difficult to feel any sense of rootedness,” Klukas said.

Klukas said he encourages everyone to place their trust in Jesus.

“Jesus is alive and he faithfully guides us through every challenge and hardship. In a world of change and chaos, he remains faithful and steady,” Klukas said.

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