Reflections to start the week
Monday, April 14, 2014
Praying shapes believing
That’s one of the things we say about our tradition. The ways we pray, our requests and thanksgivings, our praise and confession, they shape our convictions and commitments, our beliefs and practices. We become what we desire. Or as Jesus said (always good to quote Jesus): Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. So what do we pray this Holy Week? Take a minute of silence (if need be, set the timer on your phone) and read the collect for the Monday in Holy Week at the bottom.
Then note what we affirm in this prayer, that God’s son suffered pain before joy. The mystery of suffering has been on my mind in preparation for Holy Week. It surfaces in great variety in the passion narrative: betrayal, isolation, indifference, expediency, questioning, violence prompted by religion and politics. Nothing new under the sun.
I’ve also been thinking about the subject of suffering since I read a N.Y. Times column last Monday. David Brooks contrasts the experience of suffering with our culture’s focus on happiness. (He wrote that in one three month period last year, more than 1000 books on the subject of happiness were released on Amazon.) Brooks notes that while happiness is a good thing (Just watch the Youtbue of Pharrel Williams’ Happy ), people feel formed through suffering. While he sees nothing intrinsically ennobling about suffering (i.e., we don’t need to go looking for it), people can be ennobled by it. Suffering, he says, sets people on a distinct course, “dragging them deeper into themselves, finding new resources, discovering they are not who they believed themselves to be.” As suffering gives a sense of our limits, insight into what we can control and what we can’t control, Brooks believes that such insight can lead to a sense of call, “a sense that people are at a deeper level than the level of happiness and individual utility. They don’t say, “Well, I’m feeling a lot of pain over the loss of my child. I should try to balance my hedonic account by going to a lot of parties and whooping it up.” The right response to this sort of pain is not pleasure. It’s holiness.”
How many times have you heard the word holiness raised in a major newspaper, of anywhere in the media, or anywhere besides church? And it come just in time for Holy Week, a week set apart to explore the mystery of God’s suffering.
We all know suffering. None of us go looking for it. All of us occasionally cause it in the lives of others. Each of us have to navigate our way through it. We worship a God who came among us to show us the way. That way has to do with love and grace. Pray your way through Holy Week, as we look suffering straight on, affirming the mystery that God’s son himself suffered. God is well acquainted with the topic, and in some way, in the economy of faith, that mystery leads to a miracle, a way of life and peace. Let your prayer shape your believing this Holy Week, bringing confidence in the hope that will arise next Sunday.
- Jay Sidebotham
|The Collect for Monday in Holy Week:Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
It doesn’t have to be the blue iris.
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.