Suffering Does Not Get the Last Word

April 7, 2017

As I write this reflection, my mind is seared by images of Syrian children fighting for life after exposure to chemical weapons. My heart hurts with the news of Charlotte’s rising murder rate. And my hands are busy trying to find some way to help in response to the Mecklenburg County Economic Opportunity Task Force report that lays out over 90 recommendations that seek to heal the brokenness in our city—a brokenness that I have had privilege to avoid.

I would rather avoid this suffering—but I also write on the precipice of Holy Week, a time in the Christian year when we accompany Jesus in his final days and through his suffering.

So in these days when the suffering of the world feels urgent, I would challenge you—and invite you—to resist the urge to look away. Instead, I would invite you to walk forward.

Come to worship this Palm Sunday, when we remember that Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is immediately followed by his Passion.

Come to church on Maundy Thursday at 7:30 p.m. for a service of Tenebrae and communion where we mark Jesus’ last supper with his disciples and when we will recite the story of his betrayal, arrest and crucifixion.

Come, too, on Easter Sunday–to our community Sunrise Service at Romare Bearden Park at 6:30 a.m., or to our services in the Sanctuary at 9 a.m. or 11 a.m.

We cannot avoid the suffering of this world.  But because we follow Jesus, the suffering servant, we can walk through the darkest valleys in the knowledge that suffering does not get the last word.

For your reflection and devotion at the beginning of Holy Week, I offer this prayer by Dr. Walter Brueggemann:

Loss is Indeed Our Gain

The Pushing and Shoving in the world is endless.

We are pushed and shoved.

And we do our share of pushing and shoving

in our great anxiety.

And in the middle of that

you have set down your beloved suffering son

who was like a sheep led to slaughter

who opened not his mouth.

We seem not able,

so we ask you to create space in our life

where we may ponder his suffering

and your summons for us to suffer with him,

suspecting that suffering is the only way to newness.

So we pray for your church in these Lenten days,

when we are driven to denial —

not to notice the suffering,

not to engage it,

not to acknowledge it.

So be that way of truth among us

that we should not deceive ourselves

That we shall see that loss is indeed our gain.

We give you thanks for that mystery from which we live.

Amen.

– Pen Peery