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Suffering is something we do our best to avoid

by | Mar 27, 2018 | North District Web Page, Featured-News, North District Newsletter

Helping the homeless

By Rev. Daniel Morley, North District Missional Strategist

Suffering is something we do our best to avoid — not walk straight into. But in this Holy Week, our scripture passages and remembrances; our worship times and spiritual practices, take us into some rather uncomfortable places. Our culture and media have not quite figured out what to do with this week Christians call Holy. Most only dance around its edges of pageants and parties, but never mention the passion of it all.

Even that word “passion” is a bit of a conundrum. It is not about momentary pleasure, but rather the sharing in suffering. May our times of worship this week be about a remembering in a way which causes us to enter into the depth and purpose rather than only in a historical sense. May we remember with the intent of our liturgy of Holy Communion — In Remembrance — in such a way that Christ is present here and now.

An excellent way to realize this mystery of remembering, which reflects the timelessness of eternity, is to practice. Practice is foundational to our Methodist heritage and Christian way. Our statements of faith, our doctrine, and our values must all be closely aligned with the practices of our daily lives. It is the practice of the faith which makes it real and transformational.

A case point which brings this Passion and Suffering at the core of our faith into something real and effectual — John Wesley’s exchange of letters with Miss J.C. March in the 1760s as R. Heitzenrater in “The Poor and the People Called Methodists” shares.

Miss March, a woman of wealth and education admitted to Rev Wesley of her struggle of contact with the poor which her association with the Methodists brought about. In response to her uncomfortableness and questioning of the need to connect with the poor, Wesley replied. . .“Go and see the poor and sick in their own poor little hovels. Take up your cross, woman! Remember the faith! Jesus went before you and will go with you. Put off the gentlewoman; you bear a higher character. You are an heir of God and joint-heir with Christ! Are you not going to meet Him in the air with ten thousand of His saints? O be ready!”

But Miss March contested back as she complained of associating with people of poor taste and low character. Wesley replied. . .”I have found some of the uneducated poor who have exquisite taste and sentiment; and many, very many, of the rich who have scarcely any at all. I want you to converse more, abundantly more, with the poorest of the people who, if they have not taste, have souls which you may forward on their way to heaven. And they have (many of them) faith and the love of God in a larger measure than any persons I know.”

But Miss March continued to protest in yet another letter to which Wesley replied. . .“What I advise you to is, not to contract a friendship or even acquaintance with poor, inelegant, uneducated persons, but frequently, nay constantly, to visit the poor, the widow, the sick, the fatherless in their affliction; and this, although they should have nothing to recommend them but that they are bought with the blood of Christ. It is true this is not pleasing to flesh and blood. There are a thousand circumstances usually attending it which shock the delicacy of our nature, or rather of our education. But yet the blessing which follows this labor of love will more than balance the cross.”

Miss March replied saying to this challenge to “constantly” visit the poor that she is already a busy woman and that some time must necessarily be put aside for seclusion and prayer in the maintenance of her spiritual life. To this, Wesley replied. . .“Yet I find time to visit the sick and the poor; and I must do it, if I believe the Bible, if I believe these are the marks whereby the Shepherd of Israel will know and judge His sheep at the great day… and I am concerned for you; I am sorry you should be content with lower degrees of usefulness and holiness than you are called to.”

We name each day of this week as Holy because they mark sacred moments and experiences. May we carry the holy moments of our worship this week out into the world to hear and be in the midst of the suffering of the people. May we hear of others hopes and struggles and of fears and tears. May we be with and in the suffering of the others — as that is where we will find Jesus — who is already there and we too will be filled with a holiness in a sacred moment.

Your Brother, in our Hope-filled Christ,
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Author: North District

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