I was getting close to despair, because of the daily, accumulated sufferings, tragedies and mistakes of the people we serve and encounter in this ministry, including the single worst, most disgusting domestic violence case we’ve encountered in 8 years. I can always tell when despair is winning when I start giving into anger. Or when anger starts taking me over, and I don’t seem to want to purge it. Sadly, the people I live and work with too often realize when this is happening sooner than I do. Sorry, Max. Sorry Juliana. Sorry Linda.
(What behaviors and feelings tell you when you are nearing the bottom? Who recognizes it first, you or the poor people you work and live with? And to what or to whom do you turn to get you out of it?)
So last night and early this morning, after a very sweet, concerned evening text from Juliana and a few gentle words from Max and Linda, I turned back to Paul. (Ever read the 2nd chapter of Galatians? (Paul knew about anger. And anger knew about Paul.) All this, hopefully, began to pull me out of it. Thanks, Max. Thanks, Juliana. Thanks, Linda. And thanks, Paul. One day, I mean to thank you properly.
So I have tossed the two sermons I had already outlined for this Sunday. I haven’t been preaching about, thinking about, or experiencing enough — faith, hope and love. Paul tells us, timelessly, that these three, and particularly love, are the marks of the disciple. More than this, these three, and particularly love, are the greatest of God’s gifts. These three are the powers that enable us to live as disciples in the face and midst of so much in creation and humanity that is discouraging and painful and self-defeating. This Faith is not faith that makes common sense—such as faith in ourselves, faith in human goodness, faith in things, faith in false saviors, faith in ideologies that serve our narrow self-interest. This Hope is not hope in things to which most of us cling. This Love is not even our greatest human capacity for love, based upon mutual need, self-interested and extended to a limited number of people.
If you are interested, tie into these from Paul before Sunday:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
“2 . . . we boast in our hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and our hope does not shame us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 13.7
“[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Your brother, Brooks