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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, July 21, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Romans 8:12–25

So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (NRSV)

The sufferings of this present time are well known by now and are still being unfolded daily by news reporters and commentators. There are charts and graphs, polls and personal essays, to clarify the scale of this suffering and to give nuance to its scope and reach. The sufferings of this present time are death, illness, grief, loss of income, and desperate loneliness. What’s more, the sufferings of this present time do not arrive to an empty house. This present time had its fill of trouble before coronavirus showed up, so the suffering now, of this present time, is a fearsome concoction of the novel with the old-as-sin kind of trouble.

And yet for all that, Romans 8:18 says that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory about to be revealed to us. This is a different take than I’ve been seeking. I’ve been trying to place these long weeks in some historical context (1918?) or in conversation with the lived experience of so many the world over who weren’t going to restaurants before they all closed or who don’t have homes at which to remain. Those frames aren’t wrong, necessarily, but from the standpoint of Christian hope, they’re not adequate.

There is something about to be revealed. This is as true today as it was when Paul penned those words. That something is glory, which will resist any attempt to define or describe it, being—like the God it refers to—fundamentally mysterious. Glory is glimpsed in the Spirit hovering over chaos to bring light and order, in the burning lips of the speaker God has commissioned to speak truth to power, in the humble birth, companionable life, and despairing death of Jesus, the glory of the power of God made perfect in human weakness.

About-to-be-revealed. Are we watching?

Come, Lord Jesus, and reveal your glory in this present time. Cause our eyes to strain for watching and our ears to burn for listening. Give us such hope and patience in the interim that the time may find us eager and ready to live into the new creation you are bringing about, even now. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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