Perseverance

Batman and Robin decided to go camping. They set up their tent and went to sleep. A couple of hours later, Batman wakes his faithful friend. “Robin, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”

Robin, who is used to these midnight lessons, replies, “I see millions of stars.”

“What does that tell you?” asks Batman.

Robin ponders for a minute. “Well, astronomically speaking, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Chronologically, it appears to be about 3:15AM. Theologically, it’s evident that God is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant.”

“Why?” continued Robin. “What does it tell you, Batman?”

Batman is silent for a moment, then speaks. “Robin, you’re an idiot. It means somebody stole our tent while we were sleeping.”

How many of you grew up watching the television show “Batman?” Batman began as a comic book, evolved to TV, and is the recent subject of several new movies.

His story is first told in a twelve-frame comic strip in 1939 in issue #27 of Detective Comics. He and his parents are walking home from the theater when an armed robber accosts them. His father steps in front of his mother and takes a bullet. Then the gunman turns the gun on his mother while he watches. The robber runs away, leaving him standing over his dead parents. His guilt over standing by helplessly while his parents were murdered turns the boy Bruce Wayne into the superhero crime-fighter Batman. He dedicates his life to stopping criminals and defending the helpless.

Batman embodies the notion found in verse 3 in our scripture this morning:

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Suffering produces perseverance. Perseverance produces character. Character produces hope. Lord knows, we are in a season that requires a lot of perseverance right now.

Can you recall a time in your life when you had to persevere through something? Maybe it was as transient as enduring the awkwardness of Middle School, or as life-changing as the kind of perseverance that families learn when they are battling cancer. Some are dealing with the challenges of raising a special needs child or a rebellious teenager, while others are honing their character by being caregivers to a parent who is struggling with dementia. Suffering that produces character that teaches us perseverance takes many forms. As this pandemic continues without an end in sight, we are all learning perseverance.

Many of you know that our family learned about perseverance when our daughter was diagnosed with cancer. It truly is in these moments that God teaches us so much about himself. Even the worst of times can be a blessing in the end, for it is often in those seasons that you learn who you are, and WHOSE you are.

I say this to everyone today who is enduring something: God is with you. Even in your darkest moments, God’s light can be found if you look up and study the heavens.

Robin was right: the bright, shining stars and the vastness of the universe remind us that God is all-powerful and we, and our troubles, are small and insignificant by comparison.

5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

May you persevere through whatever it is you are suffering through right now, and find the hope that comes from God. Hang in there. God is with us.

Moonlit Night

The Sky is Falling

International travel is suspended.

March Madness is canceled.

Broadway is dark.

Disney is closed.

The stock market is down over 20%.

Colleges aren’t returning after Spring Break.

Collegiate sports are suspended.

Schools are closed.

Worship services are canceled.

Was Chicken Little right?

The threat of the coronavirus and the decisions that are forthcoming from the CDC and the WHO regarding gathering in large groups have brought an air of “the sky is falling” to our community. With breathtaking speed, twenty-four hours of announcement after announcement came pummeling though our devices and each one seemed worse than the last. The health of our nation and the economic impact of these decisions are unsure at this time, and we all feel the anxiety, anger, frustration, and fear that come with watching everything you know turn upside down in the span of a day.

Hebrews 12 (New International Version)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

PERSEVERANCE. It is good to remember on days like these that WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS. We will run this race together. We’ll fix our eyes on Jesus as we throw off the hinderance of fear and misinformation. And we will submit to authorities who are making the best decisions they can based on their studies and information, like it or not.

In what I think is a remarkable show of national unity, everything is shutting down so that we can collectively slow down and eventually stop the course of this virus until the last case has been reported. We’re doing this TOGETHER.

It will help us if we recall what Jesus endured, and realize that he is running this race with us. Even in our exhaustion, we can remember Jesus’ pain and suffering and find the strength to continue. Consider this:

For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

And don’t forget what happened to Chicken Little. She got bonked on the head by an acorn and concluded that the sky was falling. In her hysteria, she convinced Goosey Loosey, Henny Penny, and Ducky Lucky to join her in running around yelling that the sky was falling. Then came Foxy Loxy, who offered to take them to the King to report about the sky. So he took them one at a time into his fox den, where loud squawks and flying feathers ensued. They never returned. Pretty foxy, wouldn’t you say?

The moral? Keep your head about you. The sky is not falling. The fox den is a place of fear, so don’t go there. You’ll get entangled. Instead, follow the hygiene guidelines, don’t go into large crowds if you are in the vulnerable demographic, and just wait it out. And practice patience, perseverance, and love for one another.

This is bad, and it will get worse before it gets better. But it won’t last forever. Don’t lose heart! This too shall pass.

Calming Waves by Michelle Robertson