This should appear in the local paper tomorrow.
As I write this the summer solstice is 2½ weeks away. The hot days of summer haven't really arrived but we've had a few days of summer-like heat already. I have a love-hate relationship with summer.
I love the way some things slow down over summer. The kids won't have homework to do in the evenings. In my job I have the luxury of a fairly flexible schedule so in the summer I don't always have to wake up to an alarm clock when I don't have to help get the kids ready for school. In our church most of the regular programming and meetings take a break over the summer. I've written in this column before about how my family enjoys our summer camping trip. We've been looking forward to that for months and we still have a number of weeks of anticipation before we reach that point. I like not needing a coat or jacket when I go out. I like the long hours of daylight. There's a lot I like about summer.
But there are some things I don't like about summer and some of that is an intense dislike. I'm not too good with heat, especially the sweltering, sticky, humid heat we get here. My perfect temperature is warm enough for shorts and sandals but not so hot that the perspiration gets squeezed out of my without doing any kind of physical activity. Air conditioning is nice but there are others in my household who can't stand it, plus it adds to our hydro consumption when we're trying to conserve. I'm not such a big fan of bugs either. Mosquito bites are never fun but now we have to worry about West Nile as well. And I love to sit outside for a barbeque or picnic but later in the summer you have to worry about the yellow-jackets that won't stay away from your food.
It seems that for summer, like so many things in life, we need two "words" to speak the full truth of the season. If you're marketing the season you play up the time to take vacation, play outdoors, wear light clothing, enjoy concerts under the stars, explore the wonders of nature. But that's only the partial truth about the season. Summer also brings the stifling heat, forest fires, hurricane season, water shortages, and increased smog. The poor often can't afford air conditioning or vacations.
Many situations require two "words." We live our lives with a combination of grace and hardships. There is much that calls out for thanksgiving. We give thanks for the greening of nature, the growth in farmers fields and orchards and in our gardens. Often we don't recognize the grace, the gifts of God that are right there in front of us, though we've done nothing to deserve them or earn them. But there are also many things in our lives and in our world that have us pleading for mercy or offering mercy to others who struggle.
In the church we ought to be speaking these two "words." We're realistic about the world we're living in. We're realistic about the struggles in life. We don't ignore them, papering over them to hide them. Nor do we look through rose-coloured glasses, making hardship seem like it's not really there or it's not all that bad. That's the one "word."
But the church has another word. We give it different names like Gospel, Good News, and Grace. God, too, is realistic about the hardship and suffering, in fact God experienced those things in Jesus Christ. But when we live in faith with God then we live with the promise that hardship and struggle are not the end. God's will is for good. Jesus began his ministry by quoting the ancient words of the prophet Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free" (Luke 4:18).
May we live with those two "words" this summer. We can plead for mercy and offer mercy where it is needed. We can also give thanks for the gifts we receive daily from our Lord.