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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Today’s Reading | 2 Corinthians 4:13–5:10

But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling—if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil. (NRSV)

Reflection
“So we do not lose heart.”

I don’t know how Paul felt when he wrote these words. I know that when I have the opportunity to read this piece of scripture as the presider at a memorial service, I stand taller when this phrase comes tumbling out of my mouth. It comforts me as much as I hope it comforts the mourners.

Paul wasn’t presiding at a memorial service when he first wrote this letter. He was attempting to encourage the church followers at Corinth to stay strong in the faith. They had become fragmented by internal strife and disagreement. He wrote these words to shore them up in their ability to follow the crucified Christ at a time when their expectations had been dashed. Paul’s message was to “keep on keeping on” and to believe that it was all worth it. “Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.”

Paul writes, “This slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen.”When I read these words at a funeral, the person who has died has usually experienced a long and debilitating illness. The family is devastated not only by the death that has occurred but because they have witnessed the deforming effects of disease. It’s a bit risky to refer to what they’ve experienced as a slight momentary affliction, because what they have endured has been big. What I hope they hear is the message that there’s more. There is a bigger picture. There is the long view. There is something beyond what our eyes can behold and always the possibility of an“eternal weight of glory beyond all measure.” Struggle and human disagreement and church strife and pain and death and disease are not the end of the story. Keep on keeping on.

Prayer
Dear God, I ask that you grant me the long view, a glimpse into eternity beyond the momentary afflictions of the present. And may that glimpse help me to continue following the crucified Christ in this world. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care


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