By Rev. Debra Jene Collum
Chatfield United Methodist
We have all been shaking our heads recently about our weather, haven’t we? It is as if, because we are already dealing with a society in upheaval, the earth itself has decided to groan with us. Which does have biblical precedence.
When I read chapter eight of the book of Romans, I often wonder what environmental chaos Paul and the early church was experiencing. We do know that the Western Roman empire was in the beginnings of its collapse just as the church was being formed. The rumblings and upheaval of civil wars, invading armies, political corruption, poverty and even disease probably felt much like some of what we are experiencing today. So, when Paul writes of “present suffering” we know this is not metaphorical.
But Paul also writes of the groaning of creation. Likening the anguish of the earth to labor pains. What was happening in creation while Rome burned? Whatever it was, I think we could write something similar right here, right now.
While I don’t mean to suggest that an empire is about to fall. I do suggest that what we are experiencing deep in our souls is exactly what Paul and the early church was experiencing. Which should give us some hope. Because, obviously, as bad as things seemed for Paul and the early church; the church is still around to read about their experiences in the scriptures and learn how God works in the world even in the midst of chaos.
I think it is providential that the church was born into a world of upheaval; because this means that the church has, at its core, the means to transform chaos into hope and despair into renewal.
I love that Paul uses the metaphor of birthing to describe the groaning of creation. If we are paying attention, we can testify to that, also. We are seeing people paying attention to the injustice of the legal, economic, political and social systems that have marginalized people for too long. We are seeing new ways of envisioning our society so that all are treated with dignity, respect and honor. The groaning of our world and society is, in places, giving rise to new systems of justice and truth.
We are learning new ways of restoring land, regenerating soil, replanting ecosystems. Right here in the Bluff Country we have farmers and landowners who are taking seriously the call of the land to heal rather than harm it.
I want to be a part of the places where new birth and regeneration are happening. I want to claim Paul’s hope that God is working together with all of us to bring about a new way of being that will be just for all. I pledge to listen to the groaning of creation and society so that I can be the co-creator-midwife with God to restore a future with hope and vitality. Will you?