Daily Worship


August 10, 2017 0 0
Image credit: James Cathcart

Romans 9: 1-5

1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; 5 to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Contrasting with the tone of optimism that we saw in Psalm 145 yesterday, today’s reading is marked by a spirit of gloom and anguish. It is a reminder that the experience of extreme suffering, grief, or pain is a reality from which few are exempt. This is a mark of the human condition. 

The apostle Paul experienced deep anguish of spirit on repeated occasions. This was closely related to his love for God and people. He would have understood Martin Luther’s remark that ‘love is not only pure joy and delight, but as great and deep heaviness of heart and sorrow.’

The mental pain he was suffering as he writes to the church at Rome, arose from tension between his belief that Jesus was the Messiah and the knowledge that the majority of his fellow Jews completely rejected that belief. Adding to Paul’s pain was his sensitivity to the charge that his understanding of the Gospel was helping to fuel anti-Jewish hostility. In truth he loved his people and his grief was genuine (verses 1, 3). Paul’s pain was profound but he is able to find hope beyond the current predicament, in God’s saving promise to Israel. He goes on to spell that out (see especially 11: 25-32).

Meantime, the anguish was real enough. The most terrible thing about suffering is when we have no one to turn to in our pain. What made Paul’s anguish bearable is hinted at by his characteristic phrase ‘in Christ’ (verse 1). Paul did not suffer alone but in union and fellowship with his Lord.

This is one of the great themes of Julian’s Revelations. Interpreting her vision of Christ’s crucifixion, she emphasises two things: that it was God incarnate who suffered, and that his suffering was for us.We are encouraged to view our own suffering in the light of his. 

When we pray, we are united with Christ in the fruits of his own victorious suffering. Julian writes: ‘He (Christ) saw every individual’s sorrow, desolation and anguish and, from the depth of his kindness and love, he grieved for us all.’ She concludes, ‘Any soul touched by grace who sees things in this way will truly realise that the pain of Christ’s passion exceeds all other pain. And yet all our pain will be transformed into boundless, everlasting joy by the power of the same passion.’


God of all consolation, in times of anguish and pain, comfort us in our affliction. Help us, like Paul, to find hope in the midst of despair. At such times may we enter into the fellowship of Christ’s suffering, and know that we are not alone. As we receive his comfort, enable us in turn to bring comfort to others who are in trouble or pain. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.