“I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18
By Dr. Gary Whetstone, superintendent of the Athens-Elberton District
That’s what I heard from the small covey of Christians standing in a yard across the road from Oconee Street United Methodist Church in Athens, Georgia. Their church building was on fire. The roof had collapsed and firefighters were hacking at the steeple, exposing hot spots upon which showers of hosed water fell. The building, constructed in 1902 from the very boards of their previous facility, was giving way to the ravages of fire. And the people groaned, as has our nation and in particular those in Boston: One due to accidental fire, the other due to the fires of malice unleashed in flying shrapnel.
Our “present” day is filled with suffering. We all suffer in varied ways and at varied levels because Creation is broken. And yet, in the midst of swirling emotions with some so powerful words shrivel with inadequacy before them, enters this word: Hope. “I believe” in a “coming glory,” Paul writes. What is will not always be.
Is that enough for Boston and those of Oconee Street? No, if we are talking about Idealism. Yes, if we remain open to the teaching of Paul. Paul teaches that because of what God has already accomplished at the cross and tomb, our groaning is not just about suffering. It is about birth.
For instance, terrorists try to terrorize. And yet, what do we find giving birth from the rubble? Courage. Service. Strengthened love. Resolve. Newly found faith. The very things that make life better. What about fires that end histories and long-standing traditions?
At a prayer vigil held less than 24 hours following the Oconee Street fire, a young girl took the microphone. She said she was sad her church had burned. She explained it was there she had encountered the love of God and the love of a church family. “But I know you will still love me,” she said. So young, and still she detected what we hold to be true: Nothing can separate us from love, rooted in Christ Jesus. Suffering seeks to rob, but with the Spirit’s help, the very qualities of this hopeful, better-world-to-come can be here now.
What I have witnessed these past ten days gives me hope. May it be true for many more.
Prayer Focus for the Week
Caring Lord, grant us courage, lead us to service, strengthen our love, increase our resolve, and deepen our faith. Amen. –Bishop Watson
By Quincy Brown, Vice President at LaGrange College
Reprinted from Monday Morning in North Georgia
When I was a child, there were adults in my neighborhood who played special roles. They were characters who entertained and taught us in their own special way.
There was Mr. W.T., who sat on his front porch and threw candy at us like it was a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Isiah, whom we called “Wise,” always had a sing-song rhyme of a wisdom saying that sounded more like “pool hall banter” than a proverb. And then there was Mr. Alvin, who was the self-proclaimed Sheriff of the neighborhood. He actually walked around with a toy badge and an unloaded Colt 45. He saw his job as making sure that things were running smoothly in the neighborhood. But if there were any signs of conflict, like Barney Fife of Mayberry, he would often complicate matters and someone else would have to come in and clean things up.
Mr. Richard, who drove his 1975 Pontiac Grand Ville like Richard Petty in the Daytona 500, played rule enforcer. He had the keys to the neighborhood park and wouldn’t allow profanity, violence, or mischief to occur on park grounds.
And there was Mrs. Patterson, who made homemade cupcakes and had a choice selection of grape, orange, or strawberry soda. We could buy a cupcake and soda for a quarter at her house - and get a lecture on the importance of saving money while we were there.
Many of the lessons I learned in childhood seemed to center around the basketball court in the neighborhood park. I watched my adult neighbors practice fairness, responsibility, and doing their share to make our community better. I learned about honesty, patience, compassion, generosity, courage, gratitude, forgiveness, loyalty, and respect by walking up and down
But it didn’t stop there. I saw many of the same adults in church on Sunday mornings worshipping God. They were ushers, greeters, lay speakers, Sunday school teachers, confirmation class mentors, and choir members. Like the mentors who trained their protégés by walking around using hands-on teaching; I was taught that character is about who we are and what we do when people aren’t watching us. I learned how to “walk the walk” of Christian character.
Prayer Focus for the Week
Gracious God, we are grateful for the people in our communities. Help us learn from the Christians "walking the walk" around us. Amen.
- Bishop Mike Watson