WE REJOICE IN OUR SUFFERINGS
June 18, 2017
HERE IS A GREAT MYSTERY FOR YOU,
From that great mystery-writer, Apostle Paul:
“We rejoice in our sufferings,
Knowing that suffering produces endurance,
And endurance produces character,
And character produces hope.
And hope does not disappoint us--
BECAUSE GOD’S LOVE
Has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”
All people rejoice in their blessings.
But what kind of people rejoice in their sufferings?
THE SOLUTION TO THIS MYSTERY
Is that God loves all God’s children--
With an unending, unquenchable love,
That surrounded them before they were born,
And will be waiting for them with open arms,
When their earthly pilgrimage is done.
WE WOULD GLADLY GIVE OUR RIGHT ARMS,
To spare our children heartbreak and suffering .
Look back over your own lives; think of all the trouble
Your own parents would gladly have spared you, if they could.
Of course, they could not. We must walk that lonesome valley.
We have to walk it for ourselves.
WHAT WE CELEBRATE TOGETHER
Is God’s love, poured into hearts young and old,
Through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
We have received the ability to rejoice even in suffering:
A gift that the world can’t give—or take away.
WHATEVER HAPPENS TO US ALONG THE WAY,
God’s love will never let us go:
That is the faith into which we are baptized.
THIS FAITH OF OURS
Is the strangest success story ever told:
That in Jesus, God climbs up on the cross of suffering and sorrow,
Right beside us, to assure us we aren’t forgotten.
Methodist pastor and author,
Described a difficult pastoral visit:
A YOUNG WOMAN
Had been married only a few months,
And her husband died of pneumonia.
His funeral had been the day before.
WEATHERHEAD, WHEN HE CALLED,
Found her being held tightly in the arms of a white-haired relative.
The young widow burst out at her pastor:
“Where is God? I’ve prayed to him.
At the funeral you talked about the ‘Everlasting Arms.’
Where are they?”
HE JUST POINTED AT THE OLDER WOMAN,
Who was still holding her tightly, and he answered,
“They are here. They are around you right now.
Those are the arms of God.”
ALL OUR HOPE
Comes from a God who is there with us.
One of our prayers addresses these words to God:
“Before we felt the pain, you suffered it;
Before the burden came upon us, your strength lifted it;
Before the sorrow darkened our hearts, you were grieved.”
Into which we are baptized
Is that, beyond suffering and sorrow,
There is always a hope that will not disappoint.
NOTHING CAN HAPPEN TO US,
That will separate us from the love of God.
Jesus stands there, on the far side of suffering.
“Well, here we are,” he tells us,
“Still together in spite of everything.
Can you feel your sorrow turning to joy?
Well, nothing, no one, will take that joy from you.”
THAT IS THE REASON WE REJOICE IN OUR SUFFERINGS,
We are a people who know where the Everlasting Arms are.
They are securely around us, and will always be.
I RECALL A TOUCHING MOMENT,
During our monthly worship services at Golden View.
As usual, we served Communion to the residents.
Back then we were still using little plastic cups,
Where now we just dip the cubes of bread in the juice.
WHEN ONE ELDERLY LADY
Was unable to take the Communion cup in her hand,
The volunteer from church gently held it to her lips for her,
And she was able to drink, and remember her Lord.
That volunteer was dear Irma Haley.
IN EXACTLY THAT WAY,
Our ministry grows out of the faith we share,
And into which we are baptized.
The love we show, and the love we give,
Helps others rejoice, even in their sufferings.
FOR THAT REASON,
Jesus went among all the cities and villages,
Healing and preaching to those who were harassed
And helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
FOR THAT SAME REASON,
He remarked to his disciples--
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest
To send out laborers into his harvest.”
The harassed and the helpless are still out there.
They are the children in town whose only square meals
Are the ones they get at school.
They are the pathetic victims of the opioid crisis,
And their distraught families.
They are the babies born to addicted parents.
They are those who lost loved ones to gun violence.
They are the spouses and parents of soldiers who didn’t come home.
YOU AND I ARE PART OF THE ANSWER
To that prayer our Savior calls for:
Lord, send out laborers into your harvest.
We, a small church in a small town,
Are a part of the great body of Christ,
Encircling the world with mission and ministry.
That makes its savory way to the Salvation Army in Laconia;
Each backpack that ends up being worn by a needy schoolchild;
Each hour spent by a volunteer at the Thrift Shop;
Each dollar that goes to Neighbors in Need
And One Great Hour of Sharing--
HELP BRING THE LORD’S HARVEST HOME,
And perhaps makes it possible for the harassed and helpless
To rejoice, even in their sufferings--
Rejoice that they are not forgotten…
Rejoice that they have a Good Shepherd…
Rejoice that there’s room for them at a table
Spread for them in the presence of their enemies.
WELL DONE, GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANTS!