A Matter of Degrees
Since Easter we have been looking at some of the implications of Jesus' resurrection for our life and ministry in the Church today. This Sunday is the last week before Pentecost, the last Sunday in the Easter season. We will hear Jesus pray for unity for all his followers with himself and with God. Then we will hear about Paul and Silas in prison. We like the first as a model but probably not the second as much. What is the relationship of faith and suffering, especially in our time and place? It is a matter of degrees.
Notes from the Preacher:
In the sermon I referred to Paul and Silas being beaten with rods. This is not at all a pleasant subject, but if you are interested in learning more about the practice, I read this article, which is something of a meditation: "Paul's Hardships, Beaten with Rods," and this one, which is a more in-depth study of all manner of beatings and punishments in the Roman world: "Tortures and Torments of the Christian Martyrs."
As to the illustration of comparative gravity, if you want to do the math, here's an article on the appropriate formula. As mentioned in the sermon, the acceleration of gravity for earth at sea level is 9.81 meters per second per second, or 9.81 m/s². In imperial units that would be 32.2 feet per second per second, or 32.2 ft/s². Using the same formula, one can calculate the acceleration of gravity on the surface of an orange (mass ≈.14 kg, radius ≈ .038 m) to be:
g(orange) = G * m(orange) / [r(orange)]²
= (6.673 x 10^-11 N·m² /kg² * .14 kg)/(.038 m)²
= 6.64 x 10^-9 m/s², 0r 0.00000000664 m/s², or 0.0000000218 ft/s².
That's about 1.5 billion times smaller than the gravity of the earth. If you haven't listened to the sermon, this won't seem very relevant, so check it out.
I made passing mention of a man who is facing a twenty year federal jail sentence for providing water to migrants crossing the desert in Arizona. Here's an article about that story from The Independent, a U.K. news source.
In summary, Jesus prayed that we who believe in him would be one with him, as he is one with God. We should then expect and accept suffering as Jesus did when we act as he did in a world that does not know him. At the same time, since we are one with him and with God, we should expect that our faith and our experience of Christ will overwhelm the experience of suffering for him. (While this has implications for suffering in general, I am referring specifically to suffering for Christ, rather than suffering due to illness, tragedy, or other circumstances.)