A pre-recorded sermon preached virtually for another church. The recording begins after having begun with a list of "better than" examples that was missed in the recording.
I remember about a decade ago it was thought that Canada Post would soon be obsolete with the dawn of the electronic communication era. Today the online shopping revolution has meant that Canada Post (and other carriers) are busier than ever. One reason, despite the rising cost of stamps, is that in our digital age people are actually reverting (or advancing?) to sending letters. Think how impersonal a text or email can be; they’re surely easy to send and free. Not so with a letter. You need to pick out a card or paper, you need to take the time to write something with real ink, your hand and eye being intricately involved in the process. Then you need to seal the envelope, buy a stamp and then get that letter to the Post Office (It then travels about and a real person delivers it to you). While still a relatively simple form of communication it is actually an involved process that breathes connection and relationality. The impersonality of our electronic age is seeing letters make a return. I’m always delighted to receive a letter, especially from overseas.
In the ancient world, to write a letter, on parchment or papyrus (costly resources because of the time involved in preparing them) was a very intentional thing. There was no whiteout or delete buttons. Every word mattered. The intentional inspiration of Scripture is therefore a wonder, especially when scroll lengths are considered.
In a sense letters are actually a thing divine for through them God chose to reveal Himself to us.
We’re presently reading one of them—Revelation—which is a letter to the Seven Churches!
I first became interested in Biblical letters, ironically, not through the Epistles but through a letter Elijah wrote to Jehoram (2 Chr 21:12) Here Elijah challenged Judah’s idolatry. While difficult or sensitive matters are usually best reserved for in person conversations, sometimes they can be effective when written in the right spirit (they give people something to come back to) or when in person conversations may be impossible. John Newton once had to write such a letter and said he sought to, “play the part of a friend by letter.”
Perhaps most famously were Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. He actually wrote several letters, only two making it into the Bible. Having founded and pastored the church, it became shipwrecked. He wrote a previous letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 5:9), then 1 Corinthians, followed by a visit (2 Cor 2:1), followed by a “sorrowful” letter (2 Cor 2:3) and then 2 Corinthians. Sometimes difficult letters are necessary and effective.
However, in person meetings are ideal. This is what John expressed, though in more positive circumstances, when he wrote in 2 Jn 12, Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
One day, there will be no need for difficult letters and time will abound to fellowship with the saints; until then, however, the Lord has given us letters.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning. (Ps 30:5b)
When I was a boy, I had a fantastic three story tree house complete with ropes and ladders. One day I had the brilliant idea to erect a pulley lift that, through hoisting, would pull me on a seat up into the tree house above. All was well, like I said, a brilliant idea! Part way up my maiden hoist I realized, however (being a hefty lad), that the strength of my arms was not adequate to match the engineering of my pulley system. I let go and fell—flump! It was the first and only time I have had the wind knocked out of me. I lay there for some time until I came too and was able to go back to my play.
That story is a very simple description of the believer’s journey through life. There are times when all seems to be going well: well at work, well with the wife, well in our relationship with Jesus. Then suddenly, our world is turned upside down, by death, illness, succumbing to temptation, etc. However, through looking to Jesus, in time, life usually finds some sort of equilibrium again, and ultimately light always returns.
In studying prayers in the Bible and in Christian counselling, this process has been called: Orientation, Disorientation, Re-Orientation.
One Bible scholar notes 6 types of prayers found in the Old Testament offered to God by people who are disoriented:
The following suggestions are offered as ways of preparing for or walking in faith in the midst of disorientation (in no particular order):
This is like doing business in great Waters, or like going down into the deep; this is like being in the heart of the Sea, and like going down to the bottoms of the Mountains; now it seems as if the Earth with its bars were about us forever. But let them that walk in Darkness and have no light, trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon their God. For my part, as I have told you already, I have gone often through this Valley, and have been much harder put to it than now I am, and yet you see me alive. I would not boast, for that I am not mine own saviour, but I trust we shall have a good deliverance. Come, let us pray for Light to him that can lighten our Darkness, and that can rebuke not only these [fiends], but all Satans in Hell.
One thing is sure, we will face disorientation in life. I am always amazed by the Psalms that almost always, even after expressing disorientation in a variety of ways, end in faith and hope. Allow the Psalms to be the guide of your heart through disorientating experiences. Pray through them. They will express and align your heart to the Father and lead you from darkness into His glorious light.
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.