Praying the Scriptures - Paul Suffers
Here I am Lord,
Speak to me
within my heart and soul.
I am listening.
2 Corinthians 11:23-27 (The Message)
I've worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death's door time after time. I've been flogged five times with the Jews' thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummelled with rocks once. I've been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard travelling year in and year out, I've had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I've been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I've known drudgery and hard labour, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.
Acts 20:19-23 (The Message)
When they arrived, he said, "You know that from day one of my arrival in Asia I was with you totally—laying my life on the line, serving the Master no matter what, putting up with no end of scheming by Jews who wanted to do me in. I didn't skimp or trim in any way. Every truth and encouragement that could have made a difference to you, you got. I taught you out in public and I taught you in your homes, urging Jews and Greeks alike to a radical life-change before God and an equally radical trust in our Master Jesus. "But there is another urgency before me now. I feel compelled to go to Jerusalem. I'm completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there. I do know that it won't be any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead.
I was one of the travellers with Paul when the Lord took him for his own. Not only him, as you see, but me as well. There was no denying the power of God that threw him from his horse and there were so many witnesses. Though my presence here should be proof enough – I was as every bit as committed as Paul to the destruction of that little group that called itself Followers of the Way. And now here I am, following the Lord’s footsteps, mostly by following Paul’s!
He does seem such a boaster, a bragger, totally ego-centric at times and I suppose he is – but he always tells the truth. And the truth is all about Love. Although you wouldn’t believe it from how he’s been treated; and here he does not exaggerate. But no-one likes to think they are wrong. You wouldn’t believe how much people don’t want to hear the truth, would rather stay in their bitterness and anger than give in to God’s Love and change their life to God’s way.
Trouble is - when you give in to God’s love – it’s not nice, it’s not comfortable, it’s not happy ever after. It’s more like – why didn’t I know? Why can’t they see? How do I make them believe? God’s Love fills you up until you think your skin is bursting because it’s not meant just for you– it’s for them – all of them.
And that’s what makes Paul do what he does – he’s so full I wonder if he feels the pain, the struggle, the beatings, as long as he makes a connection and can pour that Love, that Grace into another heart, another soul.
And as soon as he celebrates one success he’s off after someone else. Knowing that his time is running out, yet always running straight into the darkness because he knows where the Light is, who the Light is.
I try, I really do, to be like him. Sometimes I find it hard to speak up, sometimes I do fear for my life and, though it seems ridiculous, I hate being laughed at. And then I look at Paul, and as much as my strength comes from God who loves me, it also comes from Paul who loves me too.
‘Whoever said it was easy?’
The English language has only one word for love. When we study scripture we often use the Greek which gives us four words. But God’s Love is beyond all the words and understandings that we can imagine. Experiencing it for ourselves is hard enough, but trying to explain it to others?
Why would anyone give up time, effort, belongings, wealth, friendship even their life, for someone they hardly know and who may not even appreciate it.
It doesn’t fit in this world view. There is no sense in what we are asked to do - love and care for others as if they were us, as if they were part of who we are; which is what belonging the Body of Christ is all about.
Jesus didn’t know most of the people he helped or healed, he didn’t ask for justification – he just did it. And that didn’t always make him popular either.
There’s nothing wrong with doing things that make us look good or feel better but if we only do things to make ourselves look good or feel better; then there will be much we don’t do that we probably should.
Take time to consider the reality of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Think about what his life was like, the life the disciples took, the road Paul followed. Has your life ever been like that? What have you found difficult. Did you ask for the Lord’s help? What was his answer?
What can you learn to help you in the future?
May the blessing of the Sacred Three
The Father who gave us the Word
The Son who is the Word
The Spirit who opens the Word within us
Be with us today and evermore.