Suffering as a punishment for our wrongdoing is bad enough, but at least it is understandable. However, the scripture tells us that we are assured of the blessings and favor of God when we suffer for doing what is right and just.
What can that mean? It could mean that we will have our reward in heaven, but it might be more subtle than that. Maybe suffering for what is right and just changes us in powerful ways. Maybe those blessings are a growth in empathy and compassion—spiritual tools that can undo the most visible injustice in our world. These are the weapons that animate and empower human rights and social justice movements all over the world.
In our baptism, we vow to respect the “dignity and worth of every human being”; thus we are charged and compelled to “suffer” by becoming uncomfortable, giving up complacency, and working for equality and justice for everyone. This is the spirit of Lent. The season of Lent compels us to give up our privilege and become discontented, abstain from the systematic subjugation and vilification of others, and work toward justice for the marginalized and stigmatized. We then acquire empathy and compassion for others that change us and them.
To obtain this vulnerability, which can manifest a change in ourselves and our communities, we must begin to trust God in ways we have never imagined. We must die to self-sufficiency and self-security and turn our hearts and minds over to the loving will of God. This is the Lenten discipline.
Compassionate God, as you sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer with us and for us, help us to be willing to suffer for our friends and enemies alike as we are animated by your eternal and unconditional love. Amen.
In the midst of Lent, when many might be giving up a certain food that they love, we read about feasting. The focus is not on physical feasting, but on feasting as a metaphor for communing with God. Isaiah describes food and drink that one cannot buy with money, for it comes freely from the Lord. The psalmist describes the state of his soul as being hungry and thirsty. Only meditating on God’s faithfulness nourishes his soul at the deepest level. Physical food is momentary, but spiritual nourishment endures. In First Corinthians, Paul appeals to this imagery. Although the ancients experience this spiritual nourishment, some pursue physical pleasure and stray into idolatry and immorality. Partaking in this nourishment should cause us in turn to produce spiritual fruit, as Jesus admonishes his listeners.
Read Isaiah 55:1-9. When has God’s grace inverted your expectations?
Read Psalm 63:1-8. As you mature in faith, what new questions about God do you ask?
Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. Think of a time you have faced great temptation. How did God help you endure it?
Read Luke 13:1-9. For what do you need to repent?
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