Rev. Dr. Gregory Thomas Gray is the pastor at Enfield Congregational Church in CT.
Scripture: Romans 5:1-8 (NRSV)
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
Reflection: Suffering Together
As a middle-class, cisgender, White man living in America, I have been wondering about what I really have to say about this text and suffering. However, I am sure that many of us have a similar story to tell these days. At the time I sit to write this, my church has lost four members in the past two weeks with two more who are COVID19 positive. I am praying I won’t get the news of their deaths too any time now. I know I am not alone in the churches across our Conference.
These days when a loved one has died, family members can’t be in the same room with the one who is about to die. Family who are spread across the country can’t get on a plane to come home to bury Mom. If they are lucky, they got a last phone call or Facetime, and then we stand 6 feet apart in masks in the graveyard for a brief interment and wonder when we might be able to get together for a funeral.
So, yes, today I think we know what suffering together is all about. In these times we have seen the best and the worst of humanity. In our congregations I know that we have experienced empathy that changes us. In the United Church of Christ it connects our hearts with our heads and our hands to the point that it moves us, and we will never be the same. We will work for a future when others don’t have to suffer like this and know this kind of loss.
Maybe, just maybe this is what is meant by:
“suffering produces endurance, and
endurance produces character, and
character produces hope, and
hope does not disappoint us.”
During this season of communal suffering, may we look to God for hope and be motivated to use our hands for good.
God of Hope, move us to work today to build your Beloved Community. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving for the more than 110,000 victims of the Covid-19 disease
- For courage and endurance for those who work to make our world a just place for people of color
- For those suffering from injuries inflicted during peaceful protests throughout this nation
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the warriors who have shown or continue to show the rest of the world how to fight for justice
Please Pray for the Following SNEUCC Churches:
First Congregational Church UCC, North Adams, MA
Church of Christ, Congregational, Norfolk, CT
Federated Church of Norfolk, Norfolk, MA
Niantic Community Church, Niantic, CT
Newtown Congregational Church, Inc., Newtown, CT
Newton Highlands Congregational Church, UCC, Newton Highlands, MA
Eliot Church of Newton, Newton, MA
Newport Congregational UCC, Newport, RI
Church of Christ, Congregational, Newington, CT
Belleville Congregational Church, UCC, Newburyport, MA
Central Congregational Church UCC, Newburyport, MA
This Week in History:
June 10-11, 1963 (57 years ago) Alabama Governor George Wallace ends a blockade of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and allows two Black students to enroll. Wallace was forced to desegregate the university after President John F. Kennedy federalized the National Guard on June 10 to enforce desegregation. Wallace tried to maintain segregation 3 months later in a public school and was again forced to desegregate after Kennedy federalized National Guard troops again.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
The Rev. Greg Gray is the pastor of the Thompson Congregational Church and Chair of the Connecticut Conference Open and Affirming Ministry Team