And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, NRSV)
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
I suspect that most of us have a favorite Bible verse or a favorite theological concept, even if we are not always able to articulate what they are. For me, the essence of my understanding of Jesus Christ is the incarnation—the belief that in ways far beyond human comprehension, God fully entered into human life in the person and ministry of Jesus. John’s gospel begins with the familiar words, “the Word become flesh and lived among us.” The author of the Letter to the Hebrews stressed the full humanity of Jesus and what it means for us. In the passage above, he reminds us that Jesus was “tested as we are,” and therefore is able to “sympathize” with our weakness.
I am not a biblical literalist who would suggest that Jesus was tested by a global pandemic. But I am a believer who finds comfort in what the Bible tells us about God’s plan for our lives and the many ways that Jesus was part of that plan—teaching, loving, healing, interceding, and yes, understanding and sympathizing with our weaknesses as they are exposed by the challenges we face because of the coronavirus.
Early in my time as a member of Naples United Church of Christ, Dawson Taylor preached a sermon in which he said, “Families are complicated.” That phrase has stuck with me ever since (and always will). To it, I would add that “Churches are complicated.” Whether we are talking about our families of origin or our families of choice, including our church family, relationships among us are complicated. Not one of us is fully the person we want to be; nor are our family members fully the people we wish they would be. In all of our relationships we experience stresses and strains, gratitude and joy, heartache and hearts overflowing. Whether the pandemic has increased tension because we are spending more time together in confined spaces or increased our pain and longing because we are unable to spend time together safely—our lives and relationships are complicated.
I find comfort and hope and strength for going the distance in the promise that in his own way, Jesus too was tested. Because he did so without sinning, we may “approach the throne of grace with boldness,” confident that we will receive “mercy and grace to help in time of need.”
No matter the time, place, or relationships, life is complicated. Thanks be to God that we have Jesus the Christ who is able to understand and sympathize with our weakness, who offers to us the mercy and grace of God our Creator to help in this and every time of need.
Rev. Dr. Sharon Harris-Ewing
Prayer focus: Overcoming Doubt
O God our God, who is present to help us in this and every time of need, forgive us for doubting the promises made known to us through Jesus the Christ. Today and every day, may we experience in new ways your mercy and grace. Lead us to find truth and hope and steadfast love in the midst of complicated relationships and challenging times. Amen.