SCRIPTURE: Psalm 51:1-12, Romans 8: 28-33
In the name of the God who creates us, redeems us, and gives us life. Amen!
Fred Craddock is a nationally known preacher, pastor and professor. Several
years ago he experienced a debilitating paralysis that laid him up for eighteen months.
Slowly but surely he came back, until he gain full strength and was able to be about full
One of the first gatherings he went to after this time of paralysis was a gathering
of over seven hundred pastors in Atlanta, Georgia. At that meeting he thanked those
who were present who had remembered him with cards and notes and prayers. Then to
this group of seven hundred preachers he said this:
I invite you to come see me. Netty and I have a new house up in
the mountains of north Georgia. It's about a hundred miles from here. You
go up 1-75, and you take the 1-575, which becomes 515, the Appalachian
Highway. You go through Jasper and Yellow Jay and Cherry Log.
When you have gone through Cherry Log, begin to look on the left. You
will want to take that. You'll go to the first left off Maxwell, which is
a little dirt road.
There are three mailboxes there; you'll know where to turn. When you
turn there, go down that dirt road about six hundred yards. On the left
you will see a pasture. In the pasture there are always several horses.
There's a big black stallion, a bay mare, and a little black pony. But don't turn
there to the left, turn to the right, because that's where we live.
You will see a naturally aging, gray, board and batten, cedar house. It's
on the site of an old mill. It's actually built across a creek. The house is
on one side. Our family room is like a covered bridge across Sisson Creek,
and then my study is on the other side. I know it sounds awkward, but
somebody has to live in a place like that.
If you come, we will put you in the upstairs guest room. There is a big window
there, and it looks out on the mountain and the three waterfalls that spill
down and run under the house. Now we book up pretty early, so you will
want to call ahead to make sure there is room for you. When you come, you
don't needto bring your own sheets. We'll provide the sheets.
Now I want you to now I read all of that. When I read it, I wanted to get in my
car and drive to Atlanta, turn north, and go there. I could see the place in my mind. I
could trace that route on the map in my mind's eye. I felt so invited, and the directions
were so clear.
There are some people who cannot give directions. Have you ever asked a
person for directions to a particular location, and they start to go in one direction, then
they take you in a different direction? On of the best lines of all is "Well, you can't get
there from here." There are some people who believe that about the Christian life.
There are some people who believe that from where they are in life, they cannot make
it to the Christian life.
I am preaching a series of sermons right now on, "A Life that Really
Matters'~Two weeks ago I started off by saying that the first thing we need to do for
a life that really matters is to turn to God. Last week, I said we turn to God because with
God there is grace in every place. Today I want us to think about the address of the
If we are Christian, where do we live? What's our address? We are on the corner
of Clay and Sixth/ Ninth and Pine. Can you imagine trying to give directions to the
church to a stranger?
What Paul does for us in this passage from Romans is tell us the address of the
Christian life. He says the Christian life lives its life at the corner of Suffering and
Glory. Paul says,"I do not consider the suffering of the present life worth comparing to
the glory that is about to be revealed to us." We live in suffering but we are looking for
glory. Those two intersect, and where they do, that's where you and I live most of the
time. We live at the intersection of Suffering and Glory.
There was a time in Christian history when a small group of Christians said that
once you're in grace you are always in grace. They believed that once you had made a
confession of faith, God hermetically sealed you, and so no difficulty could ever get to
you again. There would be no pain. There would be no suffering. There would be no
illness. You wouldn't get the flu or anything else. You would be protected all the time.
That's not what Paul is saying at all. Paul is saying that our lives are lived in
tension. The sin of life pulls us constantly toward suffering death, both physical and
spiritual. The grace of God, which we know in Jesus Christ, pulls us also. It pulls us
constantly towards the fullness of life, towards hope and possibility, towards the Spirit
being a part of our lives, and us experiencing life in dimensions we haven't even
imagined. Life is lived in this constant pull between suffering and glory.
We see that if you read through the book of Psalms. Many of the psalms start
out with the psalmist speaking about all the difficulties of life, all that they have gone
through, all the pains that they have known. However,those very same psalms end with
a great affirmation about the nature of God, or of what life is like lived in relation to
Psalm 51, which we read this morning, starts out with these words: "My sin is
ever before me. From you only, 0 God, am I separated. " There is recognition on
the part of the psalmist that what they done has hurt themselves and those around
them. It has created sin, and the realization that not only have they hurt themselves
and those around them; they have separated themselves from God.
But the psalmist goes on, and near the end of the psalm writes: "Let me hear
and joy and gladness. Let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Create in
me a clean heart."There is a reaching out for glory, for the relationship with God,for
the healingthat comesfrom joy, for the joy that is lived in relationship with God.
We see that same kind of dynamic in last week's psalm. In last week's psalm,
Psalm 25, the psalmist starts out: Lord, teach me your paths." Obviously this
person feels they are not on the right path, so they need to know God's path. The
psalmist ends with: "All the paths Of the Lord are steadfast love and
faithfulness." That's not some theory. That's based on experience. God has entered
into that person's life and drawn them along, and now they can proclaim, "All the paths
of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness.
If you can imagine an intersection, and one street is suffering and the other is
glory, and you are standing at that intersection, there are forces in life that will pull you
down Suffering, deeper and deeper. Does that completely erase the influence of Glory?
But the further you move away from glory the less you hear the traffic there, the
less you hear the call from glory. But if you are standing at the intersection, and you
move along glory, the same is also true. Does it completely reverse the influence of
suffering? No! Paul says if we are to move to a new life, it's like going through
childbirth. It will be painful. There will be suffering even in glory. But the further we
movethe lessinfluence suffering has upon us.
Where we live is largely determined by what we allow to live within us. Is it
unbridled desire, or is it the Sprit of God? The psalmist in verse 11 says, "Take not you
presence from me, nor take your holy spirit away from me." The psalmlst was
crying out for the presence of God in his life. He wanted to feel the pull of God even
There was a young woman who had a two year old and she was pregnant again.
When it came time to give birth to this child she and her husband went to the hospital.
She delivered the child. The doctor let them see this wonderfully beautiful little baby boy
just for a couple of minutes. Then he told them he needed to take the child and do
some checking and examination. He was gone for an awful long time. The couple was
very nervous. When the doctor came back he said,"We have discovered that your baby
boy has three holes in his heart.
The news tore a hole in the heart of the mother. The baby lived only four days.
The news about his heart condition and his death sent her over the edge. Sheturned to
drinking to try to drown her pain. Pretty soon her mother had to move in with the family
to take care of the two year old and try to hold the family together. Their life was
marked by bouts of rage and crying, bouts of withdrawal and drinking bouts of violence
and then extreme contrition and more crying.
Some scars are very slow to heal. That was the case in this young mother. But
there was a childless young couple in their Sunday School class who heard about the
loss of the child. A week after the child's death, this young childless couple called one
afternoon and said, "Can we bring dinner over tonight? We would like to eat with you."
They not only brought dinner, they stayed for dinner.
They cleaned up afterwards. They put the leftovers in the refrigerator. They
cleaned the dishes. They sat around the table and had conversationwith whoever would
sit with them. A couple of nights later they called again, "Can we bring dinner?" they did
this three or four times a week for a period of about six weeks. They didn't impose
themselves. If the family said no, not tonight, they didn't come. But the family seldom
The young mother, who experienced such traumatic loss, said that two people
who did not have children, but somehow sensed what it must be like to lose a child
brought the healing that took place in her heart.
About three years passed after the death of the little boy. The couple put up for
adoption. The approval process for them was quite long because their situation was
known. When they were finally approved, they received an infant boy of Russian
background. When they presented the child for baptism, they had the young childless
couple stand with them as godparents. The mother said to the congregation, "This
couple has fed us in so many ways."
You see life truly lived at the corner of Suffering and Glory. There is so much
that will pull us down in life. But there is also the grace of God that will pull us up, and
pull others to usthat we might be fed.
Let us take a few moments to pray that God would reach out to us this day and
pull us closer to God'sheart. Hear our prayers, O Lord. Amen.
MAY THESE THOUGHTS GIVE YOU STRENGTH