This coming Sunday is set aside to commemorate the Holy Trinity in our liturgical cycle. We enter into the mystery of God in three persons. We are invited into the community with those three. When we engage that community we find fruits coming to bear in our lives—hope, character and endurance. May we bear those fruits well and offer them to those we encounter who need them as well.
1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 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.
We are justified by faith. We are aligned to and with God through faith. We are saved by grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8) and so we have peace with God. This peace and this reconciliation come to us as pure and freely given gifts (though the cost was exceedingly high and paid in full on Good Friday). That condition of being forgiven without ever being able to merit it is the foundation of our faith life. We respond in love to that which love has given to us—restored relationship with God, eternal life and peace. We have the hope of sharing in the glory of God.
Since we have such a high calling and deeply abiding peace we are able to endure sufferings—even embrace them—even boast in them. We don’t seek out suffering for suffering’s sake. We don’t put our self in harm’s way to satisfy masochistic tendencies. We do, however, seek to endure suffering with joy and faith. As we faithfully engage the points of suffering in our life we know that God brings about the fruit of endurance. Through God we can abide and persist and even thrive in the most adverse conditions. As we stare down the sufferings that life throws our way we can help others find ways to endure and persist as well.
Since God is working in us the fruit of endurance we are being changed. We are growing into who we are and whose we are. We are having our character refashioned. We are gaining traits and abilities that can only be forged through suffering. Extreme conditions and successfully navigating them have a powerful ability to shape who we are. Boot camps, two-a-day practices, endurance runs, intensive medical procedures, survival situations, sustained crises, internships, cauldrons of relationships, etc, etc. all serve to shape us into someone different. When God is alive and at work in the process we come out of the fiery experiences with a new and better character forged.
Since God is the one at work in us bringing forth the fruit of character and since God will complete the work that God began in us (Philippians 1:6) we have hope. The hope that God gives (like the peace that God gives) is different than that of the world. Our hope is cross-shaped. We know what was borne to bring us hope. We know that we can persist in hope even as we endure the cross in our own life. We know that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” and so we don’t have to let despair and defeat win. There is hope. Jesus is our hope. We bear that Jesus into a world that can at times seem quite hopeless.
Threefold God, thank you for inviting us into your community. Help us abide with you. Work into our lives endurance and character and hope. Use us to welcome others into this holy community as well. Let our lives be manifestations of endurance and character and hope in the lives of those we encounter. Amen.