Episode: Episode 18: Bitterness, Failure and Freedom

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Episode 18: Bitterness, Failure and Freedom

In this episode we discuss the Lectionary texts for the third Sunday in Lent (A): Exodus 17:1-7, Romans 5:1-11 and John 4:5-42.

Show Notes:

In his autobiography, Days of Grace, tennis champion Arthur Ashe wrote: “I have always been a firm believer in the therapeutic value of adversity. Of all people, athletes must reach an accommodation with losing, and learn to make the best of it.” Ashe died of AIDS received through an injection given by a tainted needle. He wrote his story knowing that he was leaving behind fame, fortune, and a lovely family.

For every Olympic athlete we watch as they receive their gold medal, there are thousands of others who almost made it, but didn’t. I was present when a friend lost his chance of going to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics by a hair. His non-Christian father was mortified at his failure, but my friend grew through it into a strong servant of Christ.

Compare that with the sign on the walls of the Princeton University boathouse: “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.” The secular mind dismisses the “therapeutic value of adversity” as weakness.

But Paul invites us in Romans 5: 1-5 to “stand” in a different place, the place of “grace.” In this place, we discover a past in which we are at peace with God, a present in which we have full access to His mercy, and a future hope in sharing in His glory. But these gifts were won at the cost of suffering, namely Christ’s, and remain ours as we rethink the role of suffering in God’s world.

Looking at verses three and four, suffering has such a therapeutic role in our lives that, rightly received, it enables us to endure the present while looking in hope to the future. This, says Paul, is the root of character— something that is always hammered out on the anvil of pain.

Fortunately, we do not have to gut this out as if it were up to us to manufacture character with steely determination. There is a waterfall of love cascading down on our heads, which turns character-building into spontaneous excitement, and suffering into joy.
-Peter Moore, The Mockingbird Devotional

As Our Lord had already said to the woman at the well in Samaria, a woman with an insatiable thirst for me, "Whosover drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14).This is an amazing offer. Not only does the Lord claim to fill the thirsty soul's need, but promises to make him able to quench the spiritual thirst of others. This alone fits the pastor for his task of pastoral cure. In the feeding of the five thousand Christ had also proclaimed Himself the Bread of Life, the Bread of God coming down from heaven for the life of the world, so that "he that cometh unto Me shall never hunger: and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst" (John 6:48, 33, 35).

The indissoluble union of God and man within His own Person is also part of the claim Our Lord made at this Feast of the Tabernacles (John 8:14, 16, 23, 28, 29, 51, 58). The words of Christ, are, He claims, the words of God. When He invites us to union with Himself, it is God who invites us. His gracious offer of Himself with the promise to satisfy all our urgent need for life is God's gracious offer to Himself.
-Frank Lake, Clinical Theology

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