We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:22-23, NIV)
This past December I was checking the news on my phone when I cam across a shocking picture. A young man in Changsha, China had lost his hand in a machinery accident. Xie Wei’s hand was completely severed. He was initially unsure if it could be saved, but he thought it was worth a try. And so Xie kept his hand in a plastic bag at first and then stored it in a cooler of ice as he went searching for a hospital that could perform the surgery.
The hospitals near the factory said they “didn’t have the skills to help”, but Wei kept searching until he found a hospital and a doctor two hours away. The hand ultimately went without a blood supply for seven hours, but the young man hung onto hope and Dr. Tang Juyu, a specialist in difficult tissue and wound repair rewarded that hope by reattaching his hand. It is an amazing story even without what I am going to tell you next.
The initial injury to the arm was so great that Dr. Juyu could not immediately reattach Wei’s hand to his arm. So in order to keep the hand alive the doctor attached Wei’s arm to his calf, so that the blood supply from the main artery in his leg could sustain the life of the hand.
After an entire month of having his hand attached to his calf, Wei went through a second surgery and the hand was grafted back onto his arm.
Our scripture today says that the whole creation has been groaning. And indeed we can testify to that groaning every time we turn on the news. It does seem as though the good things God intended for his creation have been cut off. But our scripture also says these groanings are not without hope.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”(Romans 8:20-21, NIV).
As children of God our groanings are not the groanings of death, but the groanings of labor, because we know a God who is at work to liberate all of creation from it’s bondage to decay and we know that he plans to use us to deliver this good freedom to the ends of the earth until the time when all things are redeemed and restored. We are the ones who are meant to be specialists in difficult wound repair
When I read the story I was struck not only by the shocking image of a hand attached to a leg, but also by the shocking image of this young man running around with his hand in a cooler searching for someone to help. From the beginning Xie Wei went to the right places for help. He went to places that post on their doors “We know how to heal” and yet “They didn’t have the skills to help”. How discouraging it must have been to keep knocking on doors and how difficult it must have been to hold out hope.
As Christians we believe Jesus Christ is the doorway to God. And because we claim to be the now body of Christ, the doorway to every Christian community says, “In here there is good news for the poor.” Yes the poor in Spirit, but also the poor in resources. Because Jesus Christ is the Way, the door of every church has a sign posted, “In here there is freedom for the prisoners.”Yes, those who are prisoners to past pain or current addiction, but also those who have been incarcerated, those trapped in unjust systems and those who have been kenneled rather than cared for. On the nametag of all those who claim Jesus Christ it is printed clearly, “Here you can find recovery of sight for the blind.” Yes, this is good news for those who are blind to the truth, but it should also be good news for those who have no access to healthcare. We claim that Jesus Christ is the gateway to life and because of that truth, there is a logo tattooed on our lives that says, “Herethe oppressed find freedom and the Lord’s favor is for everyone”.
And I wonder, how many people come to the doors of our churches, encounter our Christian communities and come in contact with our day to day lives and hear the words, “We don’t have the skills to help you with that.” Our scripture says that the creation waits eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. The creation waits in eager expectation for those who like Dr. Tang Juyu have trained to heal the most difficult wounds in this world. So may we be revealed as the sons and daughters of God, so that no one has to run around trying to remain hopeful all by themselves, so that everyone will hear, “Here there is hope and there is help”.
May what has been cut off be restored through your good work today.