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Across the Pastor’s Desk: Hope and extravagant love

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Kristi Mitchell

 

“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing 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 hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-3 (NRSV)

Kristi Mitchell

In this passage of Romans, Paul writes about knitting together faith, love, hope and glory. It is a text that threads together the story of Christ, the work of God on our behalf, our current condition as God’s beloved children and the future God promises for us. This scripture possesses a pattern for creating hope in our lives.

“Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.”

And the mortar, the thread, the stuff that holds all this together is God’s extravagant love poured out continually for us.

Suffering is a part of our humanity. It is not something that we humans can avoid. Do you ever wish for no more suffering? Sometimes it would feel so good to just skip over all the suffering and endurance-building parts of our life, and just get to the hope part.

There are times I have said to God, “I think I have enough character now, don’t need anymore suffering to produce more character!”

You can probably name several situations of suffering in your life — situations you would have rather skipped or would like to come to an end. In our current world situation, a pandemic, we all can easily see the suffering all around us.

And you have possibly stated like many of your neighbors, “Enough!”

I hope that you can also name the ways in which love and care have been shared with you and poured out for you by others throughout your life. Especially amid the most difficult of times, we are called on by God to hold tightly to the strong thread of God’s unconditional love. Our Savior’s love was poured out for us on the cross and from the cross to bring us hope in the midst of anything and everything this human life can bring us. Christ’s love flowing out for us secured an everlasting hope for the sake of a suffering and dying people and world.

At a time in our lives when we hear of infection and suffering on a daily basis, may we remember God’s powerful love, which also can infect our hearts and our lives in a profoundly different way. This unconditional love is so infectious that it drives us to trust in the One who pours this love out upon us, moves us to believe in the foundational strength of this love, stirs us to hope that it is an unconditional gift for all people; and encourages us to trust that this love is real, is ever-lasting and is genuine. God’s love is so infectious that we can spread this love. What a powerful image to think about, the spread of God’s hope and love all across our community, our country and the world.

The love of God is ever present, in times of joy and in times of suffering. It is a love that helps to build our endurance, our character and our hope. And this hope is a hope that moves us, and even sends us out into the world to share and build the love, joy, peace and glory of God with others.

Kristi Mitchell is a pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Alden.