Goodbyes are never easy. Saying goodbye to that close friend on hospice care dying of cancer, or saying goodbye to a colleague in ministry who is venturing off to seminary, or saying goodbye to an important relationship – goodbyes are often not fun at all!
There is a dramatic goodbye in our scripture reading, although one that probably brings relief to many, not heartache. In Acts, Herod dies. He is struck down by an angel of the Lord and “was eaten by worms and died.” I am not even sure what that means, but it sounds gruesome and awful!
Herod has been the arch-enemy of the Christian faith since the beginning. He hunted down the infants under two and had innocent boys murdered. Now the soldiers who let Peter escape suffer the same fate – death. Herod is uncompromising. Herod is strong and determined. Herod is rigid in his policies and rambunctious in upholding them.
But this time the crowd has turned against him. When the crowd gathers to hear him speak on his royal throne, and having won over Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, the crowd boldly shouts out, “The voice of a god, and not of a mortal!”
What we see in this story is that despite the overwhelming evil, God’s purposes are not thwarted. Dramatic Hellos and Goodbyes do not phase God, because God is forever.
How easy it is to believe that God can be overtaken. In the midst of cancer treatments, divorce, death of loved ones, breakups, sickness, betrayal, or loss, it can be easy to lose focus on God and misunderstand what is going on. I remember as a child saying goodbye to summer and having school start, and everything being so different. It was like my whole world had been upturned. One unfailing constant was church – a sign that the church family is always there, and that God never leaves us.
What we see in Acts is not just the mission of the church playing out, but the mission of God in overseeing the creation. Peter is delivered. Paul is delivered. The people are delivered from spiritual prison to light. What God is reminding us is that, while the world may rage around us, the world can no longer get to us, because we are born from above. Despite all the raging powers and the chaos the people experience, ultimately God will intervene and make things right.
In Jesus’ case, the justice brought on Herod took a while. It was well after Jesus had come into this world and left this world that Herod’s justice came. But the fact is, it came. And so whatever strife you are enduring, know that God is there and that justice will reign. It may take some time, and God knows it may take more time than you feel you can endure, but in the end God’s justice, peace, and righteousness will overcome.