Paul in his letter to the Philippians wrote how he rejoiced even in his time of suffering (he was in prison). During one of my summer seminary classes (online of course!) a fellow student commented on my writing that his congregation was fixated on how their faith should only bring joy and put an end to all suffering. They had a tough time with how someone who is suffering could be filled with joy. “How can I help this person?” my colleague asked.
Two years ago our congregation began a project, providing fresh produce to the Parish Cupboard, a local food pantry. We tore up part of our big lawn at the church and despite many complaints and skeptics went through the hard work of planting and tending a vegetable garden. I must say, there was and is a lot of suffering that those who work in the garden go through. Whether it is combating bugs, weeding, dragging the hose or fetching water from the rain barrel, when it is 90 plus degrees and an equal humidity, there is a lot of suffering.
We are in year two of the garden. The work is still the same, the heat is still there, the water isn’t any easier nor the weeding but there is a lot of rejoicing! Here then we see what the ‘suffering servant’ is all about. Here, with our hands in the soil, on the plants, we see what the ‘fruits of our labors’ are all about. Our congregation does this ‘suffering’ not because it is easy, but because it is worthy. They do not shy away from the hard work. In modern terms they ‘lean into it.’
Suffering for Christ is about being a little uncomfortable. Sometimes it is about being very uncomfortable. Sometimes it is doing the hard thing, like giving up your time to comfort someone else or pulling weeds from a garden.
We have harvested five times this summer already. Boxes full of healthy, fresh produce delivered to the Parish Cupboard. I hope you can join us in our ‘suffering’ and bring real change to the world, one weed pulled at a time.