Suffering and Redemption

Because Lent is a time when we tend to talk a lot about sin, I endeavored on Sunday to explain my framework for thinking about sin.  Some folks asked for a write-up, so here it is if you’re interested.

The reason this alternative view is important is that sin, in the Christian mindset, is thought to be responsible for evil, suffering, and death.  However, it is commonly thought that this is done through a bit of magic, the eating of an apple, and that the remedy is similarly magical, a ritual sacrifice.  My hope this Lenten season is to provide an alternate way of understanding that story that resonates more with our experience of being human, to connect the inner transformations of which we often speak with the transformation of the world in which we endeavor to participate.

One way that we commonly speak of suffering and evil that needs to be confronted emerged in our conversation on Sunday.  People often imagine that God causes suffering in order to impart some lesson, which sounds like something that many battered women and children hear from their attacker.  That is just not a God I want anything to do with.  However, it can’t be denied that we often learn things from suffering.  We find reserves of strength we did not know we had.  We find humility in the loss of control.  We find hope on the other side.  But perhaps it is better to understand those gains as redemption of suffering rather than its reason for being.  That is, rather than understanding God as one who makes us suffer so that we can learn these things, perhaps God is one who is with us in our suffering to help us turn it into something that brings life.  This is what we have always done with the story of Jesus.

The suffering and death of Jesus is the specifically Christian way of examining the problem of evil, suffering, and death.  In the face of tremendous loss and humiliation, the followers of Jesus had to try to explain what happened.  They had to try to make meaning out of this tragedy.  We still do that today.  It is the story that we tell and retell and interpret into our lives.  Through our God-given hope and humility and strength we redeem this tragic event.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Church in the Cliff, as we talk about the meaning of Jesus’ suffering and death, theologically, personally, and socially.  We will examine Paul’s writings on the subject in Romans 4.13-25 and the story found in Mark 8.31-38, both important texts for the theology of substitutionary atonement, the theology to which I am hoping to provide an alternative.  One programming note: during Lent we are doing a silent meditation at the beginning of the service, so please try to arrive by 11am and enter quietly so as not to disturb others.

Grace & Peace,
Scott

Progress Report

We are still working on the building.  Special thanks to Mike Trozzo for all the painting time he has put in.  There are a few things we could use some help with.

First, labor.  There is still more painting to be done.  We have a board meeting scheduled for this Sunday after church.  However, we realized that we might need more work and less talk, so it will be a Board Meeting/Workday.  We would love to have your help.  We’re going to order pizza for lunch.  (To see what tasks are available for your labors, please see our Google doc task list.)

Second, buy stuff!  We’re slowly filling in furniture needs, but there’s always more.  We started a registry list at MyRegistry.com.  Just pick something out and buy it.  All the shipping is set up.

Finally, we have studios to rent.  If you know someone who wants a small studio or office, send them our way.  They are small, about 80sf, but enough room for a desk or wall space for painting.  We’ll try to accommodate people as best we can.  We’re looking for $200/mo in rent.  Email board@churchinthecliff.org.

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