Today, we realize that we have a different fight. The world has changed. The rules have changed. We live in a far more secular society than the one our elders grew up in. And we are running a different race. Surviving in Silicon Valley is much harder now. Participating in a faith community is more of a challenge now. Because it is a different fight and a different race, we need a different way of looking at our faith. Gone are the days when you could say that Christianity has all the answers. Today, we live among those who find truth in other religions and in no religion. They find truth in art and literature, science and technology, and we have to learn how to welcome truth and not be threatened by it. We Christians need a humbler faith, a more trusting heart, a more open and curious mind, and a much more active imagination so that we can envision new ways of thinking and being Christ for this world.
What I have learned in all of this is that our experience of suffering is essentially Trinitarian. First, our suffering makes us cry out to God, the One who created us and is still working on us. Secondly, it brings us closer to Christ, the One who suffered for and continues to suffer with us. And thirdly, it breaks us open to receive the Holy Spirit, the One who sustains us and fills us with life and hope. So you see, we don't need a theology degree to understand the Trinity. By the grace of God, we live it every day. And though life doesn't get easier, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I promise you that it gets better and better. Amen.
Thankfully, I am not a miserable Methodist, but General Conference does challenge my faith in ways that makes me uncomfortable, to say the least. But that is good for me, because no spiritual growth ever comes out of comfort, only out of discomfort. "Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. Tis grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home." It is amazing grace that teaches us that life in the Spirit is not an easy life. In fact, it has its share of what Rohr calls "necessary suffering." Just look at Jesus. Look at the cross. The cross will tell you that any church that is built on love is a church that is built on suffering. Any Christian who is going on to perfection in love (as Wesley used to say)—that is, learning to love even the enemies of love—is going to endure a lot of suffering. We just have to remember that Jesus' suffering ended in resurrection and, by God's grace, ours will, too.
Falling upward is the process we go through to rediscover this fundamental truth: We are one with God. Not even death can separate us from the love of God. [Romans 8:38] So ascension is not just what Jesus did, but what we all can do and we don't have to wait until we die to do it. When we participate in the divine nature, when we are one with God, we are in heaven already. Wesley used to say that believers live in eternity and walk in eternity. What he meant by that is that as soon as Christ is revealed in our hearts, heaven is opened in our souls. Some people worry too much about what they need to do to get into heaven; Christ is simply trying to get heaven into us.
In order for Saul to get to the second half of life, to get from the road to Damascus to the Way of Jesus, he had to do what Rohr calls "discharging the loyal soldier." Just as soldiers today often have difficulty leaving the military, Paul had a hard time taking off the uniform that he had been wearing and the strict rules that he had been following. And we do, too. Those of us who try to discharge our own loyal soldier find that we have to question everything we had always assumed to be true, and that can make us feel as if our whole world is collapsing around us. And we wouldn't be far from the truth. This is our first step on the "further journey," one that Rohr warns us we will experience as a setback. It will feel like a loss: a loss of faith and a loss of self. 
I listened to Richard Rohr's book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life while driving to and from the redwoods each week last summer. But I saved it until now because I think Rohr has an especially appropriate message for the Easter season. When you think about it, resurrection is a kind of falling upward that doesn't just happen to Jesus.... In the next several sermons I will be trying to bring the words of Richard Rohr to the words of Scripture in the hope that we can glean some wisdom for our lives. We start today with another one of Jesus' resurrection appearances in the Gospel of John.