Sunday, May 28, 2017

Suffering and Glory

May 28, 2017 –– 7th Sunday of Easter
Acts 1:12–14 / Psalm 27 / 1 Peter 4:13–16 / John 17:1–11a
Suffering and Glory

The readings today present three things that are hard for us. In Acts, the disciples have just witnessed the Ascension and, even though they have their “marching orders” (the Great Commission, Mtt 28:28), now they are being obedient: they have retreated to an upper room in Jerusalem to wait for the gift my Father promised (Acts 1:4). Waiting is not easy for most of us, but “wait time” can open doors to the Holy Spirit beyond our comprehension. If you are in a major “wait” right now, trust that the Lord is using it for something good he wants to do in your life.

The second thing that is hard for us is suffering. Incredulously, Peter puts a totally different spin on it: Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ…. When and how do we do that? Peter gives one explicit example: if you are insulted for the name of Christ…. This happens whenever we give witness to any part of God’s truth and, in response, are ridiculed or rejected or even assaulted. But sharing in Christ’s suffering can go far beyond that. The very reason there is suffering in this world is because of the brokenness caused by the old, nasty word sin. That is not to say all suffering is the direct cause of sin; it’s just that a world where rebellion against God is not only possible but prevalent has repercussions, and everyone is affected. When we choose to see suffering as part of the process God uses to brings the world to repentance and healing, we share in the sufferings of Christ. This is the real meaning, and the proper use, of the phrase, Offer it up…. When you believe that God can and will use a hard thing in your life for your holiness and the salvation of others, you share in the sufferings of Christ.

The third thing that is hard in today’s readings is the word glory. It is hard because it is difficult to define and comprehend. We can see that glory is a good thing, but it’s hard to pin down. Whether we fully understand it or not, there is something in us (it’s God-planted) that deeply desires the glory that is so much the focus of Jesus’ prayer.

Jesus, talking to the Father, is aware of the glory that I had with you before the world began....  St Paul says that Jesus lay that glory aside in his Incarnation (in the form of God.... but emptied himself––Phil 2), and yet here Jesus is anticipating not only the restoration of that glory, but the “joy” of going to the cross (Heb 12:2) because he knew that he was opening the door to glory for us.

And so Jesus prays in today’s Gospel: I am praying for.... those whom thou hast given me, for they are yours (Father); and everything of mine is yours, and everything of yours is mine, and I am glorified in them. Jesus is praying for you…. for me!

Think about this: As we follow Jesus, we are heading to the same place where he has gone. That is the meaning of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. Jesus suffered and was then glorified. Because Jesus has gone ahead of us into glory.... because even now the Spirit of Christ is changing those who belong to him into his likeness from one degree of glory to another (2Cor 3:18).... because of the hope we have as Christians––Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col 1:27), we can wait with patience and we can even suffer in hope.

What is your biggest burden or fear right now? It is not forever. Our Lord is at work even in those hard things. We are being prepared for the full glory of God!

I’m borrowing a few texts from St Paul’s writings: If then you have been raised with Christ, (this is what Jesus is praying about in today’s Gospel) seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (this is the reality of the Ascension). Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (this is what it means to live distinctively for Jesus). Why?! For you have died (this is what baptism means), and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Col 3:1–4).

As we follow Jesus, we are destined for glory. It’s beyond anything this world can imagine. Let's not allow the world to discourage us.

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