April 29, 2008

Looking Ahead to May 4, 2008 -- 7th Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings this week are:

  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 1:6-14
  • Psalm 68 (VU p.787)
  • From the Letters of the Church: 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
  • From the Gospel: John 17:1-11

The Hymns this week are:

  • 374 Come and Find the Quiet Centre
  • 356 Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God
  • 274 Your Hand, O God, Has Guided (vss. 1, 3-5)
  • 217 All Creatures of Our God and King

The sermon title is Abandoned to Suffer??

Early Thoughts: SOmetimes it is so easy to feel alone. It is easy to wonder why we suffer (whatever suffering means for us). ANd in fact this is something Christians have faced for centuries.

This passage from 1 Peter is directed at Christians who are facing, or are about to face persecution from the ROman Empire. ANd to be frank, I am not sure how helpful the writer's advice is.

"Keep the Faith!" makes a great rallying cry but there is little about how to do it. When one's life is on the line how does one find the fortitude to keep on keeping on?

In many ways I suspect that this facing persecution (which some embraced as a path to martyrdom) left some believers wondering why GOd had abandoned them to this fate. After all, that is a common response to times of hardship -- to wonder why we have been abandoned, or why this horror has been inflicted on us.

I hear some of that feeling around town lately. Why do we have such hard times? Why is life so unfair?

I can't provide answers for all those questions but there is wisdom in the stories of persecution. The Early Christians were able to "Keep the Faith" because they were confident that even in the midst of their troubles GOd was with them. God wasn't taking away the hardship but GOd was with them. Those earliest followers could have, after watching Jesus taken away from them into heaven, lost heart and hope. But instead tehy dedicated themselves to prayer and service. From their dedication grew the dedication and faith of the martyrs at the time of 1 Peter. We can make their choice. In the face of hardship and persecutin and feelings of abandonment we can choose to lament and give up, or we can choose to lament but keep going. God will not likely turn the economy around. But God will not leave us alone in our suffering. Thanks be to God!

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