Standing in grace,
sharing God’s glory,
boasting in suffering,
and hope that does not disappoint.
This is the language we meet as we turn to Romans 5 tomorrow at WBB.
Grace, glory and hope. Sounds good.
But what’s suffering got to do with it?
Well it seems that Paul figures that if there is going to be grace, glory and hope,
and if all of this is going to be anything more than
cheap grace, fading glory and false hope,
then we’re going to need to think about suffering.
Standing in grace?
More like falling from grace for much of our experience.
Sharing God’s glory?
More like living in our own shame.
And a hope that does not disappoint?
When dream after dream is crushed, disappointment can become our daily staple.
So if Paul is going to proffer a vision of life rooted in grace,
sharing in God’s glory, and abounding in radical hope,
then he is going to need to deal with suffering.
He needs to deal with all that knocks us off our feet,
all that will push us into the depths of despair,
all that will strip us of any hope.
In fact, Paul says that hope is an end result of a process that begins with suffering.
It goes like this:
suffering produces endurance,
endurance produces character,
character produces hope,
and hope does not disappoint.
Sounds good, and maybe even resonates with much of our experience.
But there are no guarantees to this process.
Suffering can produce endurance and patience,
but it can also produce bitterness and defeat.
Endurance will produce character,
but there is no guarantee of what kind of character that will be.
Character can produce hope,
but not necessarily.
Which is why the apostle provides a deeper grounding for this 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.” (5.5)
There are no easy answers to our suffering, or the suffering of so many others.
Easy answers are always a matter of cheap grace, sentimental piety, and cover up.
Indeed, if we are to have a hope that will not disappoint,
this will not be an accomplishment,
this will not be a logical end product of a process of production
– even the production of endurance and character.
No, if we are to live in radical hope,
then it will only be through embracing a love that flies against the facts,
and receiving nothing less than the Holy Spirit in the midst of all that suffering.
At Wine Before Breakfast, we come together to celebrate that love and to invite the Holy Spirit to ever more deeply fill us with a hope that will shape our character, give us a deep staying power in our lives, help us to face our own suffering and the suffering of others. Perhaps in doing so we will know more what it is to stand in grace and share God’s glory.
Deb and the Bandhood will mix up a little Blind Faith and Springsteen with some recent and classic hymnody.
Judith Alltree, the mother of WBB, will both preach and preside.
Craig Handy has crafted our prayers.
And I’ll put on the coffee.
Wine Before Breakfast
Tuesday, November 6 @ 7.22am
Wycliffe College Chapel