Monday, April 2, 2012

Blog # 235 Suffering - 3

Blog # 235 Suffering - 3 The letter to the Philippians (3:10) has this to say: "I wish to know Christ and the power flowing from His resurrection; likewise to know how to share in His sufferings by being formed into the pattern of His death. Thus do I hope that I may arrive at resurrection from the dead." Know, power, share, formed, pattern, hope, and arrive. By way of analogy I see those Biblical words as I see the various tools I keep in a small tool box here in my office and another in the trunk of my car. Both the words and the tools have their complete meaning and value in reference to a specific use or need I might have here in the house or in my car. I'll just make a brief comment on the words here to see how they become sacramentals for me in interpreting the Bible. Know implies possession of truth. Power implies an ability to change, move, create, or do something. Share speaks to me of friendship, generosity, and love. A pattern speaks of a guide, model, or sample. Hope springs from desire. Arrive implies a goal has been attained, something, somewhere, what has been desired is in hand. Just sit down some time and apply these words to the text from Philippians and see what happens. It has become a very rich text for me and very insightful in reference to the spirituality of Paul. To know Christ, theologically, yes, identified as the eternal Word of God, and God-Among-us called Jesus, but also personally as a human friend who knows me and loves me as only God can do. The power coming from the resurrection of Jesus is the power to believe as a gift of the Holy Spirit, the power to conquer every temptation and to avoid every sin, the power to pray and to work toward justice and peace in the world around me and the power to conquer death and live forever in the eternal love of the Father. What is Paul asking for when he says he wants to know how to share in Christ's sufferings by being formed into the pattern of His death? Is Paul asking for crucifixion? No. Paul was asking to share the pattern of Christ's death, the UNCONDITIONAL TOTAL LOVE of worship that only God deserves and only death can produce. John in Chapter 24:31 has Jesus say:"the world must know that I love the Father and do as the Father has commanded me. Come, then! Let us be on our way." And after saying this He went to Gethsemane. There He prayed to the Father one more time: "Thy will be done". The crucifixion was not about suffering. It was about love. This is something like it is for the high school football team that starts its practice sessions here in Georgia in August. That experience includes sweat but it is not about sweat. It is about football. If we know what God's pattern for death is about. and what God's pattern for Baptism is about and we apply this knowledge to the Crucifixion we can understand what Paul was seeking. He was seeking to live in his life the unconditional total love that Jesus lived throughout His life, day by day, moment by moment, then brought to its perfection in His unconditional total obedient love for the Father on Calvary. That was the pattern of His death. Following that pattern, after heroic dedication, many challenges and much suffering in his apostolic journeys, Paul climaxed his life with the unconditional total love of martyrdom. He willingly suffered martyrdom with the power won for him by the crucifixion of Jesus. His hope to arrive at resurrection from the dead was secure. That security was not unique to Paul. It is at the heart of the message of salvation in Jesus. It is an essential element in the Gospel message we as professed Christians, one as we are with Jesus through faith and Baptism, are called to know, live, and share with those around us. Again we have a long blog so I will save a couple of other texts on suffering until tomorrow. May the Lord be with you!

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