God is attentive to us...
The following sermon was preached by Lisa Parker, LSTC M.Div. student, in Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on Thursday, March 29, 2007.
God is attentive to us in our suffering.
Do you remember the first time you had to face a timed multiplication test? The first time someone tormented you because of some physical trait that you didn't have any control over? The first time you fell in love – and it didn't work out? The first time you discovered that your best skill, your most notable talent – wasn't enough? The first time someone betrayed your trust? The first time you had a blatant need and no one came to your aid?
Do you remember the first time you suffered?
Suffering is a hard thing for us as people of faith to talk about. It's tempting to define suffering as the pain we go through because we're not close enough to God. Or we may say suffering happens to bring us closer to God. Or perhaps suffering is the refinement process of our faith – burning away the unhelpful junk. But, maybe suffering is relative – how is my broken heart in 5th grade comparable to people trapped in abusive relationships or orphans starving in Darfur.. Maybe suffering is the price God demands, the sacrifice of one for the sake of many.
Or maybe suffering just is. Suffering is potentially all of those things. Or potentially none of them. But suffering exists – we all know that. We have felt it. We empathize with the suffering of others. Suffering is.
The text from the 53rd Chapter of Isaiah is usually read on Good Friday and Christmas Day. The author isn't referring to Jesus the Christ – but our lectionary placement of these texts lead us in that direction. The suffering servant is likely the prophet and/or Israel in exile. But this text does help us remember that suffering is. The suffering servant is righteous – but still suffers anguish.
More importantly – God is attentive to the suffering of the servant. That's the important thing to remember. God hears us, knows us, walks with us in our suffering. Jesus shares in the suffering of all people. The message of Jesus's life, death, and resurrection isn't that suffering separates us from God. The message is that God is attentive to us in our suffering. And we are freed to be attentive to others in their sufferings also.