Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the thoughts and words of this reading that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
Hebrews 12:4-11 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children—
“My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
or lose heart when you are punished by him;
6 for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves,
and chastises every child whom he accepts.”
7 Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? 8 If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. 9 Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. 11 Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
The early Church struggled to make sense of the suffering that they endured as a persecuted sect. The way they did this varied from writer to writer. The writer of Hebrews sought to make sense of suffering by comparing it to being disciplined as a child. Hebrews 12:11 puts it this way: “Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Some people believe that God causes difficulty to teach us a lesson, to punish, or to discipline. But Jesus says otherwise. Remember Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount that God “makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)
So, what about the words of Hebrews 12? Perhaps it is best to think in terms of how good can come from even the most difficult of circumstances and how having gone through difficulties we may be better suited to help others through theirs.
There are a lot of images of God: a potter, a mother hen, a loving father, a solid rock, a refiner of silver—just to name a few. One that speaks to me when I think about making sense of the difficulties and even tragedies in our lives is the image of God as a skillful weaver and our lives as a beautiful tapestry.
Yesterday, we had a portion of the story of Joseph as our scripture reading (Genesis 50:15-21). Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and tricked their father into thinking he was dead. Years later, Joseph has moved into a powerful position was responsible for preparing Egypt for the famine that was now ravaging the region. Joseph’s brothers have come seeking help and not only does Joseph forgive them, he helps them. I bring up this story because of what he says to his brothers in verse 20: “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.”
I take that to mean two things: first, God does not cause hardship, hurt, and tragedy; and second, God can take the mistakes, the hurts, and even the tragedies and weave them into meaningful and even beautiful patterns.
I hope you will take a few moments to let the words of this message and the emotion that always connects us to music connect with your soul. I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster