December 14, 2015
About the Devotional Series:
For five consecutive Mondays, beginning on November 23, we’ll be releasing a new Advent devotional – one for each week in Advent plus one for Christmas Day. This year’s series focus on 2 Corinthians 4:7 in which Paul declares that, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God . . . .” The treasure of abundant life and the privilege of sharing that life with others has been poured into the “clay jars” of our lives. Each devotional will focus on a specific aspect of the “treasure” which has been poured into the “clay jars” of our lives and how that “treasure” can flow into the “clay jars” of family, friends, and neighbors. As a result of this treasure that we have received, we bless others.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:1-5
I was recently talking with some grandparents whose young granddaughter really wanted to camp outside. Obliging, the grandparents set up a tent in their backyard, brought out the sleeping bags, and settled in. It was not long before the little girl fell asleep. Meanwhile, the grandparents lay there on the hard, bumpy ground unable to doze off. Their discomfort grew in the tent, knowing that only a few feet away was a house with a soft bed and climate control. The advantages of their house weighed on their minds until they made their decision. Picking up the sleeping granddaughter without waking her, they brought her inside, laid her down, and crawled into their own bed. Although the girl was confused to wake up inside the next morning, the grandparents were home at last!
Similarly, in this passage, Paul finds himself in a tent of a body that, although good and useful, is flimsy and subject to frailty. At the same time, he knows with certainty that a resurrected body, “a building from God,” is prepared and kept for him in the incorruptible safekeeping of heaven. Not only does Paul have the promise of this beautiful building, but also its very architect, the Spirit of God, has taken up residence with Paul in his tent, constantly reminding him of the blueprint.
So, finding himself currently clothed with a body that was thin and worn, Paul waited with patient impatience for the Christian hope, not to be unclothed as a disembodied spirit but to be further clothed with a resurrected body. He waited patiently because he could not force God’s gift of new creation onto the old, but simultaneously he waited impatiently, groaning for the goodness of God’s new creation to swallow up the old and set the suffering world right.
Sometimes we can be persuaded to think that being patient means being numb. Since we have the sure hope of God’s new creation, we sadly believe that groaning, sighing, and grieving are inappropriate. “Do not cry, because things will be better in the sweet by and by,” we tell ourselves. If not checked, this kind of “patience” can easily turn hope into the stoic acceptance of fatalism.
Jurgen Moltmann, in his book Theology of Hope, calls Christians to a patient impatience. He says, “… faith, wherever it develops into hope, causes not rest but unrest, not patience but impatience. It does not calm the unquiet heart, but is itself this unquiet heart in man. Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it. Peace with God means conflict with the world, for the goad of the promised future stabs inexorably into the flesh of every unfulfilled present.”
What an amazing treasure it is to be filled in frailty with the guaranteeing deposit of the Spirit who not only allows us to groan, but prompts us to groan along with Him for the fullness of God’s new creation.
Heavenly Father, this Advent season as we wait in hope for the world to be set right through Jesus, help us to groan along with your indwelling Spirit in a patient impatience. Empower us to not only to groan for ourselves, but to share this treasure with others by groaning in solidarity with the broken and suffering for the hope of new creation. Amen.
Moltmann, Jurgen. Theology of Hope. Fortress Press, 1993, p. 7.