". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Joy in Suffering

The theme of the Lenten midweek services at my church this year is "Journey into Joy." It is drawn from LCMS President Rev. Matt Harrison's Little Book on Joy and incorporates prayers written by Rev. Harrison. Last night one of the readings was 1 Samuel 2: 1-10, the Song of Hannah, prayed in joy and thanksgiving by Hannah for the gift of a child, Samuel, whom she had vowed to offer back to the service of the Lord if she were so blessed. Here is an excerpt:

"The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor." - 1 Samuel 2: 6-8

Hannah kept her vow. When Samuel was weaned she took him to the temple. How hard that must have been! I can't imagine her pain. And yet in her suffering there was great joy. My pastor noted that Hannah's words are a beautiful proclamation of Law and Gospel. God kills so that He can raise up to new life. He brings low so that He may exalt. It is in our suffering that our helplessness is most acutely felt. How much greater the joy, then, when the Father reaches down to pick us up and give us a seat at His royal table!

Here is the prayer by Rev. Harrison that followed the reading in our order of service last night:

"Like Hannah, I offer to You, O Lord, the favorite son of my soul--my pride, my bitterness toward others, my thankless joyless heart. Cause my enemies--sin, death, and the devil--to flee before You, that I may rejoice in Your salvation. Amen."

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