Suffering Should Be Meaningful

How can a loving God allow the suffering of His people? This question is one stumbling block for people truly embracing God. Even those who believe in God and attend religious services regularly cannot really get with the idea of God allowing suffering.

Suffering is universal

We will have to deal with it one way or another. As Burning Spear said: “The Whole a We Suffer.”

Natural disasters, disease, war, violence and other troubles are hard to understand. Yet, suffering is a part of life for everyone. If you liven this world, you will experience suffering.

And because suffering is such a difficult concept for us to understand, it will be the topic of our Lenten study at the Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist in Orlando, FL. If you are not in Orlando, but are interested in this study you can join in online: Through Google Hangouts you can participate live at 6:30pm EST on Thursday evenings.

Fr. Seraphim really gets us thinking in this text. He attacks the issue of suffering head-on…demonstrating the value of troubling experiences. He says that embracing temporary suffering now can save us from dealing with it eternally. Which would you prefer?

In this study, we will explore the reasons for suffering and how to gain from it. If God is indeed loving (and He is) then suffering should be meaningful. But our fear of suffering makes it meaningless. And when suffering becomes meaningless, we miss the blessing.

Long ago, Christianity was known as “the Suffering Faith.” It is a faith that embraces suffering. I mean: Jesus Christ suffered for our sins. He was beaten and bludgeoned, although He had done nothing to deserve it. And, He ultimately hung from the Cross while a murderer went free.

The Meaning of Suffering and Strife & Reconciliation (The Spiritual Writings of Archimandrite Seraphim Aleksiev, Volumes 1 and 2)

The whole a we suffer…

[amazon_link id=”0938635867″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ][/amazon_link]And since suffering is inevitable, we might as well learn how to get our blessing from it. So buy the book: The Meaning of Suffering and Strife & Reconciliation, and join us at bible study on Thursdays at noon and 6:30pm at the Church or online at 6:30pm EST. This study on suffering will begin Thursday, February 27, 2014.

Please be sure to download the google hangouts application before signing our start date. See here for more info:

The text is easy to read and makes practical sense. I believe you will benefit greatly from reading it and engaging in study with us. So join us as we explore the benefits of suffering!

#DailyBread – Psalm 137: “By the Rivers of Babylon”

Imagine being taken captive: stripped away from your homeland and forced to live among a strange people with strange customs. Broken and desolate, all you can think of is returning to the place where things make sense…where things are familiar.

This was their experience, while the Israelites were in exile in Babylon. Admiring the richness of their culture while despising the people of that culture, the Babylonians sought for the Israelites to sing the joyous songs of the Lord. Yet, their reply – whether articulated or intimated – was how can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

The land indeed was strange, because the people did not honor the ways of God. Their society was powerful and successful, but it was godless. The Israelites could not dishonor God by singing righteous songs for the enjoyment of the unrighteous.

How indeed can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

The Ancients would pray this Psalm as a reminder that we, of the Faith, find ourselves in exile in a strange land. And during our exile, we pledge ourselves to remember the Lord and to prefer His Holy City.

One of my favorite reggae artists performs a song that sets the mood for this DailyBread meditation:

This land is not our home. And the head of this land is not our Lord. Do you remember the Lord? Do you remember Zion? How do you remind yourself that you are an exile in this land?

Race and Power in Coming to God

queen makedaThe story of Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, is always fascinating to me. For the mother of Solomon’s first-born son to be an African woman is a powerful thing. (Solomon himself was half African, as his mother Bath-sheba was a woman of the same region from whence Makeda came.) Yet, there are many lessons about coming to God that the Queen of the South rises up to teach us.

I want to meditate on two in particular: race and power. I want us to consider how those two impact ones ability to receive God. As we debate immigration and the worthiness of the Other to become heir to the blessings of our Country, I find it interesting that of all the kings and queens who would have heard of Solomon’s wisdom only this African queen felt it necessary to come and sit with Solomon to learn from him. Wise in her own right, she was able to “test Solomon with hard questions” (1 Kings 10:1).  Yet, she alone is said to posses the boldness that would encourage her to seek out Solomon when her contemporaries would not. The story of Makeda demonstrates that race is not a factor in ones God-given worthiness in the eyes of God.

Some may ask how I know this. Well, given ancient Jewish custom towards women would we expect historians to chronicle a story of a queen if there were similar extant stories of kings?

Caravan2It is of this unexpected phenomenon that Dr. Alice Ogden Bellis speaks in her book, Helpmates, Harlots, and Heroes when she states that “We are fascinated with this rich queen who travels freely and interacts with Solomon as an equal.” That a woman in this time had the wealth to travel such a great distance and then heap upon Solomon gifts in an abundance “never again” to be seen is indeed a compelling social statement (1 Kings 10:10).

Clearly, this African woman possessed immense wealth. Of course Solomon was wealthier. Yet, the Queen of Sheba did not live in want. She was an equal and had no need to visit Solomon. Because of her wealth, she could have assumed temporal security. Yet while we can assume her contemporaries suffered that false sense of security, Queen Makeda was not disillusioned by her wealth.

In her wealth, she was still aware of her need for something more. And, in her desire for more she humbles herself to approach Solomon.

The paradox here is stark and helps us understand the process of coming to God: the boldness of the Other juxtaposed with the humility of the rich. In boldness with humility, the Queen of Sheba embodies them both and demonstrates how we ought approach Wisdom – Who is our God. In our diversity, we must be bold to not allow ourselves to be marginalized by those who feel our witness to be subject to majority interpretations. In our abundance, we must be humble enough to be aware of our need for “something more.”

May God bless us with such boldness and humility that we might receive the fulness of His divine bounty! Amen!

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The Dark Knight, Colorado & The Hope for Conversion Amidst the Chaos

My heart breaks for the victims of the tragic shootings at the screening of The Dark Knight Rises, in Aurora, Colorado.  And, my soul searches for the hope that might be gleaned…after all, that is the task of a minister of the Gospel.  Where do you find hope?  What can you say about the state of our humanity and society, in the face of such evil?

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