Friday, March 18, 2011

The Uses and Misuses of Suffering (William Sloane Coffin, Jr.)

I just finished reading a sermon by the late William Sloane Coffin (June 1, 1924 – April 12, 2006) that was preached at Riverside Church, NYC, on February 18, 1979. The sermon was titled "The Uses and Misuses of Suffering" and can be found in Volume I of The Collected Sermons: The Riverside Years. These words struck a chord with me:
If the only God I could believe in was the God of...atheists like Nietzsche and Camus, I too would be an atheist. I could never believe in a God who didn't suffer - given the suffering of the world. I could never believe in a God whose chief characteristic was his power, not his goodness. And because my God is a God of goodness, his chief characteristic is not peace but pain. I only quote Scripture, "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." My God hangs upon a cross, a victim not an executioner; the quarry, not the hunter; and one who not only suffers with me but for me, seeking not only to console but, beyond consolation, to strengthen me. Such a God I can affirm and a world with such a God in it I can affirm too. Metaphysically, I can't answer the problem of pain. I can only resolve it by sharing it - by holding hands with the dying, by protesting in the name of my crucified Lord against war, hunger, oppression, torture, against suffering inflicted by our own human injustice. I know that the worst of all evil is indifference to keep vigil with him who neither slumbers nor sleeps - that's the way to live.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic, Richard, thanks for find this and posting it.