Suffering

Even Thor Owns an iPod

This is a comic I purchased recently and I find it completely erroneous. This is Thor an Asgardian God of Thunder listening to an iPod. Yes, they are everywhere evidently. However the message the illustrator, Marko Djurdjevic portrays is epic. We have here the image of a god that is leaving his people, leaving the world he knows and entering into a new one. However, this is not what Paul has in mind. God doesnʼt leave us in our suffering. God joins us in our suffering, he yells right beside us as it is evident by his actions on the cross. Our sufferings bring us solidarity with Christ. To be in Christ, then, is to possess what is often spoke of as full salvation: everything necessary to our past, present, future and eternal welfare has been secured for us by the action of God in Christ and is stored up in Christ for us to share and enjoy. But, it is not only benefits and blessings that are in Christ; we are in Him ourselves.

Jurgen Moltmann and many others that continued his theological thoughts within the Emergent Church have adapted what they call a hope filled eschatology. Meaning it was good news when Jesus came the first time, and it will be good news when he comes again. Moltmann echos Paulʼs hope in his greeting when he wrote about Auschwitz.

“…Like the cross of Christ, even Auschwitz is in God himself. Even Auschwitz is taken up into the grief of the father, the surrender of the Son and the power of the Spirit… As Paul says in 1 Cor. 15, only with the resurrection of the dead, the murdered and the gassed, only with the healing of those in despair who bear lifelong wounds, only with the abolition of all rule and authority, only with the annihilation of death will the Son hand over the kingdom to the father. Then God will turn his sorrow into eternal joy… God in Auschwitz and Auschwitz in the crucified God – that is the basis for a real hope which both embraces and overcomes the world, and the ground for a love which is stronger than death and can sustain death.”

1 Cor. 15 from The Message says this,

“If corpses canʼt be raised, then Christ wasnʼt, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ werenʼt raised, then all youʼre doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. Itʼs even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because theyʼre already in their graves. If all we get out out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, weʼre a pretty sorry lot. But, the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.”

The hope of the resurrection sees a future for those who have past, and those that are living in the present can gain courage for the future. It is because of this abundant hope of overcoming death, our little hope for the future, better times can strength, and do not fall victim to doubt and cynicism. In the midst of a culture filled with anxiety and doubt, we hope and do not give ourselves up to despair.

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Servanthood and Paul

Verse One, Paul and Timothy servants of Christ Jesus… wait servants of Christ Jesus is a little bit of an odd greeting.

What do they mean by servants?

Isnʼt the term “Servant” negative in connotation?

The only servant that I could think of well writing this is Alfred Pennyworth. The trusted butler to the one and only Bruce Wayne. keeper of the Wayne household even before little Brucey was potty trained. Well taken care of by billionaire Bruce Wayne and at most times the sole confidant Alfred was, to Master Bruce. Actually this is not the only servant that I could think of after this summer. The children in Uganda are all to aware of the strife contained in being servants. These children are taken in the night to fight in a war that has drastically changed their culture. These are the Invisible Children of Uganda and if you ever want to know more just come chat with me anytime.

But, why does Paul insert this negative image in a greeting? It seems as if Paul is already letting the people of Philipi and the reader aware of a couple of major themes to his letter, First there is an attack being made on the church, which leads into the second theme of the hope of a better day. Very applicable to the Invisible Children and any other servants out there. A hope of change, a hope of unity and a hope of a future.

The image I think of when I hear the term servant is suffering. The importance in the greeting is not found in the word “servant”, but how Paul finishes the greeting. He addresses the people of Philipi not as Philippians, as he does in chapter four, but instead he calls them saints … in essence he is calling them Christians. Yet again though, the importance is not in the title it is in the thought of the greeting. Paul is getting at the very centre of Christian belief, there is creativity, meaning, and hope in the fulfillment of suffering.

Suffering and Leadership

Suffering has an uncanny ability to kick us into a new future and a new hope as we are forced to imagine that new future. The key is to imagine and hope, and this is what Paul is giving to the Philippians. The ability to see hope beyond any suffering that may come to these believers of Christ. It is going to be, as Paul alludes to in his greeting, that suffering that will eventually unite us as Christians.

Paul tells the Philippians that they are saints in Christ – so what does that mean? Well, they would be entitled to the gift of full salvation through Christ. It says in chapter one, verse twenty-nine that we are given the gift of faith, so, in essence, Paul’s words “in Christ” tells us that we are given something to call our own salvation. In Christ, we are also given all we need. We are given a new way of life. In the big picture, as we heard in verse seven, we are essentially new people with new minds.

There is one more key phrase that Paul uses in his greeting and it is in reference to leadership. We first see it when he introduces himself and Timothy. Not one, but two people working for Christ. So, what does this mean for the people of Philippi? They need to work together in the church with the bishops and deacons. We are given here the relationship between leader and those they lead. How are they to lead? One word, “with” or another single word, “alongside.” The way it is written is pure genius as Paul addresses an area many leaders forget. It is that they, too, have gone through the exact same suffering, experiences and have the same hopes as those that are alongside them. It is the leadership of those who are content to stand among the saints as those who serve.

Jurgen Moltmann said in his great book, Theology of Hope, “Creative discipleship of this kind (working with others) in a love which institutes community, sets things right and puts them in order, becomes eschatologically possible through the Christian hope’s prospects of the future of God’s kingdom and of man.”

Paul paints a great greeting that at first glance looks just like that a simple greeting, but he goes deeper. Down into a world of suffering and then takes our lives.. skyrocketing into a hope for the future. As we wrap up think on this quote:

In regards to suffering:

It involves an indescribable sort of fidelity, an insane sort of hope, and indescribable sort of … well, it’s love isn’t it? There’s no other word for it … And don’t throw Mozart at me … I know he claimed his creative process was more than a form of automatic writing, but the truth was he sweated and slaved and died young giving birth to all that music. He poured himself out and suffered. That’s the way it is. That’s creation… You can’t create without waste and mess and sheer undiluted slog. You can’t create without pain. It’s all part of the process.

Paul is aware of the process. There needs to be a little hurt for hope to

shine through. Otherwise, what was the point of the cross? Isaiah 65 paves the way for Philippians 1:3-7:

Pay close attention now: I’m creating new heavens and a new earth.All the earlier troubles, chaos and pain are things of the past, to be forgotten. Look ahead with joy. ANTCIPATE what I am creating: I’ll create Jerusalem as sheer joy; create my people as pure delight. I’ll take joy in Jerusalem, take delight in my people: No more sounds of weeping in the city, no cries for anguish. What a sense of assurance we have in the greeting of Paul to the Philippians and even more so in the Words of God.