Talk About Sufferin’

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There is an old Ricky Skaggs’ song, Talk About Sufferin‘, that I have always found startlingly beautiful.

The song itself is a prime example of mountain music:  A blend of vocal harmonies without musical accompaniment, and a simple, repetitive verse and chorus conducive to memorization in an oral culture.

While driving down the road, I find myself hitting “repeat” over and over again until  the repetition sinks into my mind and becomes a meditative chant.

The chorus, which is repeated over and over again, is what I find so haunting:

Talk about sufferin’ here below
and let’s keep a-lovin’ Jesus.
Talk about sufferin’ here below
and let’s keep a-followin’ Jesus.

I’ve been singing this song to myself all evening as I prepare to preach on the sixth Sunday of Easter in the morning and am looking ahead to Thursday (which is Ascension Day).   I can’t help but realize that during in this fifty day season of celebration many of the passages we read in worship are familiar funeral passages.

In tomorrow’s reading from the Gospel of John, I will be reading the verse:

Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give you.  I give to you not as the world gives.  Don’t be troubled or afraid.

It might seem odd that in a season of celebration, when our hearts and minds should be focused on life and the Resurrection, that we would be gathering week after week to read scripture passages which remind us of death and loss.

But… then again… it’s not so odd.

After all, as people of faith, we have the comfort of knowing that what ends in this world is just the beginning of a life lived in the light of Jesus Christ.

What feels like loss and suffering in this world is really just the beginning of a beautiful and endless life in glory and joy at the throne of the lamb.

But of course, we are still here.  And this world is filled with suffering and hardship and unfairness and violence and a million other negative things.  We can’t help but talk about it while we’re here because these are the things that run counter to God’s kingdom.

God does not want people here below to suffer.  Poverty and war and hatred are not a part of God’s plan.  We have to be willing to open our eyes to those things, to see them in all their ugliness, to name them as sinfulness, and to deal with them.

But even as we talk about the suffering of this world, we must keep pushing forward toward that ultimate goal that has been set before us–the Kingdom of God, where humanity and divinity merge into one and where the creation that was started so long ago finally comes to perfect completion.

So… let’s talk about sufferin’ here below… but let’s keep a-lovin’ and a-followin’ Jesus right into the Kingdom of God!

Full Lyrics to “Talk About Sufferin'” can be found here.

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