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The Hope of Rest

My scripture reading for this morning included some of my favorite verses, which come from Romans 8:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

Romans 8:18-21 (NIV)

In a world like ours—filled with division, violence, warnings of impending catastrophe, and hardships of every kind—it brings me both peace and a sense of yearning to trust that Divine Healing—for us and the world—is on the way. In fact, I’m taken by the way that Eugene Peterson conveys that yearning in the verses that follow:

The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

Romans 8:22–25 (The Message)

I used some of my time yesterday to sit in Saint Brigid’s Cathedral and listen to Requiem, by John Rutter. Now, in my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful pieces of choral music ever written. And one of the texts that’s woven throughout the piece (and accompanied, I might add, by a tune of absolutely haunting tenderness) includes these Latin words, which I offer in both their original form and my “probably imprecise” translation:

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.
Et lux perpetua luceat eis.

(Rest eternal give to them, Lord.
And light perpetual shine upon them.)

It’s telling, I think, that one of the ways the Bible describes our hope for Divine Healing is to tell us, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God” (Heb. 4:9). And in some sense, I think one of the most important goals of my sabbatical is connecting more deeply with this hope. It’s not that I’m exhausted by life and ministry, or that I’ve lost “the joy of my salvation.” But in the midst of life and ministry, it can be a little too easy to lose sight of the promise that there is a coming rest—a “glory that is not worth comparing” to our present sufferings—and that the only way to be sustained by this promise is to be connected to the Spirit; who prays for us and within us, who empowers us, and who uses us to share with others the peace, reconciliation, and healing that will come in fullness when God’s children are revealed.

Until that day, may the Lord give to you “rest eternal,” and may “light perpetual” shine upon you always. Amen.

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