Read Romans 5.1-11

                Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also boast 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 that has been given to us.

                For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.

                 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.  But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

 

From Rev. William Flewelling, Proctor, WV

Over thirty years ago I was fairly new in that congregation and was facing a series of rather prominent deaths when an old friend from other connections arrived; her father was one of those prominent deaths, coming at a time when her marriage and place in life alike were crumbling.  My job was to provide pastoral care and support in the midst of the vortex she experienced.  She commented to me that she thought Jesus suffered for us so that we would not have to suffer.  The comment exposes part of the extra anguish she was bearing, and would continue to bear as she turned aside from most of what built her life over her then-forty some years.

As Paul addresses the Romans – and, it seems, us by way of those Romans of the late 50s of the first century A.D. – he speaks of our peace with God.  In this context, he provides our startling thought: “we rejoice in our sufferings”.  My old friend would have none of that!  Indeed, I have found few in my experience for whom the balance of ‘rejoice’ and ‘suffering’ simply did not compute.  The sentence, as Paul continues – that suffering brings endurance, endurance brings character and character, hope – spirals most minds into pure incomprehension.  This is not why they became Christian, nor continued so after their childhood introduction!

As Christians, we are set in the essence of Christ so that we find our life in common with Jesus, the Crucified Lord.  Paul uses the notion of participation, such that we find ourselves living as the Crucified, living as the One who died for us while we were yet ungodly, having no merit, nothing to commend us to the freeing gift of Jesus.  Simone Weil, a French Jewess who nearly became Christian, said of Christianity that we have no supernatural cure for suffering – rather do we have a supernatural use for suffering.  Hence our participation, our soul-immersion share in Jesus is with the Crucified who reconciles by grace wrung into place through the cross.

So drawn near, we rejoice in the share we own with the sufferings of Jesus in our own sufferings, through which we are enticed to the hope of God, our salvation.

 

Our God, your intense mercies seethe through the writhing of our souls so that your delight may be ours, bearing fruit in hope by the Holy Spirit, in the cross of Christ Jesus our Lord, our reconciliation, our joy in suffering.

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