Hi, Church of the Resurrection family! This is Father Matt Woodley, and I am filming this from my front porch in East Aurora. And first of all, I just want to say how much I miss all of you, how much I miss seeing you face-to-face, how much I miss our Sunday morning worship gatherings, and what an amazing privilege and honor that was, and how I long to see you all face to face.
You know, these days I’ve been thinking about two words that don’t seem like they should go together. But for me, they really do, so, let me just throw out the two words and then explain why they’ve been so helpful to me.
So, the first word is “groaning.” “Groans,” like “groaning,” and the second word is “opportunity.” Let me talk about the first word. So, the word “groaning”—I was in Costco on Saturday—just this last week. It was such a bizarre experience. With social distancing, and the nice friendly voice that kept going over and over again on the announcements about keeping six feet apart, and following the CDC guidelines, and nobody looking each other in the eye, and I felt like I was in some young adult dystopian novel, under some kind of terrorist totalitarian regime. A very benevolent regime, but it just felt so weird, and I felt like—”This is not the way it’s supposed to be!” And in my spirit, I just groaned for better days.
One of the things I love about the Bible is that it gives language to our groaning. I love what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8. He talks about how all of Creation itself is groaning—groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And then he says that not only Creation, but we ourselves who have [the Spirit]—followers of Jesus—we groan inwardly, awaiting our adoption as sons and daughters.
So, I just want to say, first of all, if you’re groaning these days, if you feel disoriented, if you feel sad, if you feel just out of sorts, if you feel like—”Man, I just want this to end!” You are not alone, and the Lord has not abandoned you in your groaning. Our God understands the language of groaning. And we have been buffered, for a long season, we’ve been buffered from the ache and the longing of groaning. And we thought—maybe some of us started to think—”Well, we’re living in a groan-less world, and everything’s great.”
And now that buffer has been removed, and we’re facing the pain of a fallen world, and I just want to say the church groans with you. The Lord Jesus understands your groaning. He is a God that is entered into our griefs, and our sorrows, and are groans. So you’re not alone in that, but I also want to give you this word of exhortation as well, with the word “opportunity.” These actually— these two words actually—go together in Galatians chapter six Paul says, “So then as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
I have a friend named Greg who teaches business students in an MBA program. Greg says, “Matt, this is the question that I’m asking these days: what is the opportunity in all of this?” And when I say “opportunity,” I don’t mean the opportunity to be more productive, or get busier, or get more things done. I’m talking especially about the opportunity for love. The opportunity to grow in love for the Lord, and to grow in receiving his love. And to grow in being still and knowing that he is God, or the opportunity to love others.
So, one of the practices I’ve been doing is I try to shut everything down, at some point in the day, and take a 45-minute walk. Just to be with God—without my phone, not trying to get anything done, not trying to be productive—and just to be with the Lord, and to receive his love for me. Now, you may not be able to do that given your family situation, but I do want to ask, what is the opportunity for you to receive God’s love in the midst of this? And what is the opportunity to give love to others? Maybe to encourage somebody, to pray for somebody, to drop somebody a note, to just say, “Hey! I’m thinking about you, and I’m praying for you. Is there anything I can pray for you about?” We have those opportunities.
So again, I want to think about how we have an opportunity even in the midst of our groaning. They go together. As we groan, what is the opportunity? As we seek opportunities, how can we bring our “groanings” to the Lord?
Church of the Resurrection, one of the things I love about you is I know you’re already—so many of you are—pressing into these opportunities. So I want to encourage you to do it even more, and I look forward to the day when we can see each other face-to-face.
So, much love to all of you from East Aurora.