My apologies friends for the lateness of this post. Here are a few simple reflections on the text posted below. I was hoping to provide an audio of this mornings message during worship, but there were some technical difficulties (and most likely user error). But here is the written reflection:
Sunday, March 15, 2020, the third Sunday of Lent.
This morning we continue with our Lenten series, working through and listening to the seven last words of Christ, and today, we find ourselves at the fourth word. Found in the gospel according to Matthew 27 and Mark 15.
It is true that the words we are hearing throughout Lent, are spoken on Good Friday, Holy Friday – a Friday set apart in which as gruesome as it was, it was a beautiful display of God’s love. For us to journey through Lent, listening and hearing the words of Christ, allows us to hear words that we often seem to skim over when we jump from Palm Sunday to Easter.
Because we are a people who are always on the go, we never really slow down to hear the words and voice of Jesus, finding space to witness this story of tragedy and glory. During this time, crucifixion was a public performance to produce a public shaming and we find Jesus is on the cross, with criminals, one on each side. On Ash Wednesday, we took a look at the first word: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Jesus’ first words cried out on the cross, could have been anything, making a request to meet his needs. Instead, he did two things … first, he directed people to God as he prayed “Father”. Secondly, Jesus extended love and grace, extending grace to the people present on the ground in that moment, and extended grace to us today … Father, he prays, forgive them for being silent. Father, forgive them for their actions, words or silence in which they didn’t realize that they caused harm in someone’s life… forgive them, they don’t get it, they don’t realize the pain they are inflicting…allow them to receive with open hands and hearts the love and grace we can give.
The second word, Jesus continues the rhythm of his life, and even in his death, Jesus extended love, grace and welcome as he spoke with the criminal “today, you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus in his dying, extends welcome and grace as he speaks to the criminal, the other, the least of these, the one that everyone seems to no longer care about to say: today and always I will be with you, and it will be ok. Because of your confession, because you have acknowledged me, today … not tomorrow, not later, right now, you are remembered, and you belong. The third word, where Jesus speaks “woman, here is your son” connected the beloved disciple and his mother to care for one another and now Mary and the disciple, whom we call John, are now connected and expected to be in community and to care for one another … we are connected to one another, connected because of their love for Jesus.
And now, today we hear Jesus cry out in all of his humanity, in his pain and agony, and suffering. It is in this one verse, we hear him cry out “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” My God, why have you left me here alone, why have you abandoned me? Why have you turned your back from me and left me in what seems to be the darkest hour of my life? Jesus, suffering, feeling isolate and alone and as the darkness looms, he cries out to God.
In a week, where social distancing is now part of our vocabulary, where we need to stay distant, we might identify with Jesus’ feelings. As we face various trials and challenges, when we feel the world is against us, we might identify with Jesus’ feelings of feeling alone and isolated and we wonder and cry out to God what is happening?
As Jesus in his crying out, feels alone, but continues to have pray, and trust God to show up … even when things are darkest for Jesus, he still prays and cries out to God. Seeking and searching for God. We might find that we identify with Jesus in this moment, because in life, when we feel lost and alone, we cry out and pray to God, asking God where God is, and seeking God’s presence. And just as God was at work in the darkness, we can find hope and comfort in the very fact that God is present and will continue to show up and work and bring things into light.
It is these words, in which we find a connection with Psalm 22. (Go ahead scroll down and read the Psalm). It is as if Jesus is praying the prayer of the psalmist, drawing on the strength and memory he learned growing up. But we can’t read psalm 22 without reading and remembering the words of psalm 23, in which we often turn to when we are walking through dark times, right? ‘even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil … for you o God are with me.’ It is as if in one breath we pray and cry out “My God, my God, where are you” … and the next breath we remember the words “even though I was through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me” in Psalm 23.
What a comfort it must be to hear this a reminder that God doesn’t abandon, but continues to work and be present. Additionally, that we, in the darkest moments of our lives, when we are feeling isolated and alone, and when we face uncertainty or fear, can identify with Jesus, and he understands.
These days, life does seem uncertain and constantly changing and updating. However, we can find hope and comfort, that we can cry out with all of our fears and anxieties, our pain and suffering and trust and believe God to hear, to be present, and to surround and sustain, care for, work throughout the darkness and walk alongside.
If there is anything in these moments that we hear … is that God continues to work in the midst of what we think is dark times.
One might ask and wonder, Where is God in the midst of a global pandemic, such as COVID-19? With the people, providing comfort, support, strength. God is at work within the community as we have watched schools, local food pantries and agencies step up their already strong game in working to provide food for children with food insecurities in the community. We see God at work as companies provide services for educators, students and families (U-haul, Spectrum, etc.). This is God at work, even in the dark moments. It is my hope and prayer that in this season, when you find yourself crying out to God, that you will also be reminded and assured of the promises that God is at work and present, even in the dark. And because of this promise, we can simply whisper, thanks be to God.
This is the Scripture Reading for Sunday, March 15, 2020. You are invited to read through these words and let them sit with you, reflecting on the words of Jesus and the Psalmist. Pastor Kendra will share some reflections from this mornings sermon later today, adding them to this post.
“From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.”
“When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.”
Because we will be referencing Psalm 22 and Psalm 23, we share these with you also to prayerfully read through.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”
Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
Many bulls encircle me,
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;
I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion!
From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.