I signed up for the course in Divinity School convinced that it would be a piece of cake. After all, how hard could a course on “Religion in American Literature” be for an English major who had already completed a year and a half of theological study? This was going to be the easiest “A” I received in graduate school.
Or so I thought. I could not have been more wrong. I underestimated the professor, overestimated myself, and worked harder in that class than almost any I had.
What looked to be easy was, in fact, challenging and difficult. And in the end, fulfilling. The analytical, thinking skills and mindset I acquired in that one class are employed weekly in preaching and teaching thirty-four years later.
I wonder if we don’t all do this from time to time – take what looks to be the easy way, only to discover that it’s a harder way than we thought, and, in the end, discover that it was the best way after all. I am fairly certain that we do it in our life of faith. Few of us set out on the Jesus Way, following him, thinking “well this is going to lead to a cross, where do I enlist?” The life of discipleship can appear to be one that leads us to ease and comfort (especially in upper middle class North America). Then, we hear Jesus say something like “Hey, follow me. By the way that means picking up a cross and laying down your life.”
The truth is that following Jesus often leads us into a risky place (if we take him as seriously as we should) and on our own we’re not going to do so well. But the Spirit comes alongside us to sustain us on the journey, to strengthen us along the way, and to walk with us into places of suffering and brokenness.
This Sunday, we’ll conclude our sermon series on the Holy Spirit by reflecting on the gift of the Spirit as sustainer, especially in the face of suffering. I hope to see you – it won’t be easy to get here through the construction, but it’ll be worth it.
Grace and peace.