Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 62; 145, Job 12:1-6, 13-25, Acts 11:19-30, John 8:21-32
“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”
Doesn’t hearing that make us want – at least a little bit – to hurl the lemons at whoever said it? Ironically, the times we are most likely to hear such well-meaning but ill-considered platitudes are also the times we are least likely to appreciate them. They come across as trite and condescending. When the disciples scattered to distant cities after the death of Stephen, “making lemonade” was probably the last thing on their minds.
However, even in this period of fear and confusion, the Spirit moved. In Antioch, some disciples shared the Gospel with local Greeks and a great number became believers. The church in Antioch grew so large that the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas – the first Gentile convert – to visit with and encourage them. No longer identified strictly with Judaism, the believers began to be known as Christians.
While this may seem like a classic lemons-to-lemonade situation, we should not to be glib about blessings springing from tragedy. No number of Greek converts diminished the loss and sorrow of Stephen’s death. To say God used Stephen’s death to achieve a greater good would have been cold comfort to his mother. While none of us can speak with authority on God’s motives, perhaps it would be better to say the faith of the disciples allowed the Spirit to transform the nature of the tragedy.
Lemons do not spontaneously turn into lemonade. Such a transformation takes effort. Likewise, recovering from tragedy is not a matter of inactivity, but of determination and openness to the possibilities of the Spirit. Consider the story of John Walsh, whose son Adam was murdered in 1981. John channeled his energy into helping missing and exploited children. He is most famous for his television show America’s Most Wanted, which aided in the capture of more than 1000 fugitives. To say God used the murder of a little boy to achieve a higher good is cruel and dismissive of the tragedy. To say God helped transform grief into justice is to speak of hope. The difference is subtle, but all important.
Comfort: God does not inflict tragedy, but helps us overcome it.
Challenge: Pray over a situation in your life that may be an opportunity for redemptive grace.
Prayer: God of life, out of my brokenness reveal new hope. Amen.
Discussion: What are the least and/or most helpful things people have said to you while you were grieving?
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