Dear St. Mark’s and Pacific Beach:
We’ve all heard it before: suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Because Christianity centers upon a suffering God and the redeeming quality of suffering, Christians have tended to elevate the experience of suffering and sacrifice to the point where they take on a holy glint.
Sometime in my twenties, I began to seriously question such theological ideas and to question the notion of God delighting in our suffering and wanting us to suffer and strive for the rest of our lives in order to garner God’s favor, love, and acceptance.
I grumbled that this Sunday’s lectionary text was 1 Peter 2:19-25, a passage that once again seems to promote this harmful theology. But, whenever I have to preach on difficult texts, I try to dive in a bit deeper to see what’s really going on. And all the time, I am so grateful I do, rather than just skip the text altogether, because I understand God so much more fully.
I stand by my belief that God doesn’t want us to suffer and that suffering is not the way to salvation. At the same time, we can’t deny the fact that destruction is always somewhat a part of the reconstruction process. And death is part and parcel of the process for birth.
So what does our suffering now in this pandemic and Jesus’ crucifixion mean for today’s revival and new birth? I would say they’re inextricably interwoven.
Let’s explore this idea together this Sunday.