The New Testament reading set for today is Romans 5:1-5.
‘Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to his grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.’
Around half of our congregation at Sunderland Minster is made up of asylum seekers and refugees; men, women and children who have endured suffering, but who can also testify to possessing peace with God through Jesus. They come from several nations, and do not necessarily receive a warm welcome in the UK.
I am quite aware that trauma can rob us of peace, can cause deep wounds that need patient healing. That not all suffering produces godly character. But the heart of the word to suffer relates to having things done to us—for good or ill—in contrast to those things we can do for ourselves. So, in older English translations of the Bible, Jesus says, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me, and do not stop them.’ That is, carry them, for they are too young to walk.
When we do to, or act towards, others as we would wish them to do towards us—and more, when we do to others as God has done towards us—then we see God’s glory. Not the tawdry glory humans so often seek, but the divine glory that is revealed in a person who has come through suffering—being done to for their vilification by other people, and done to for their vindication by God—to the place where their character can be entrusted with hope, and hope’s realisation.
Again and again, we have seen people come to us in great need, and, as they find a home here, rooted in the peace Jesus gives, they have given of their gifts and skills, their unique abilities and creativity, their willingness to serve and desire to bless.
I am so thankful for these sisters and brothers, whom God has sent here to us, for a season.
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