Kindom Unity

Rev. Katherine Todd
Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 133:1-3

 

Acts 4:32-35

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

 

Psalm 133:1-3

How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the LORD ordained his blessing,
life for evermore.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

Now this passage from Psalm 133, feels dreamy.  It feels like a hot shower, like a warm towel, like soft sheets.  This passage feels like a spread of delicious food, like time in the presence of friends – laughing, like the road rising to meet us…

This passage from Psalm 133 – about how very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity – feels dreamy, feels exquisite, feels like a deep breath – because it is so entirely rare.  There are few in life with whom we feel this level of peace, are there not?

 

And do not get too hung up on the literary meaning of the word kindred – for our God has shattered our worldly delineations of family, opening the doors wide in Christ Jesus that all might come in and sit at the table of the family of God…

So, we do well if we recall the Native American concept of “all my relations” referring to the connections we have with all creatures and all creation.  For we are all connected.  We all affect one another.  We directly and indirectly impact the lives and well-being of one another.

 

And this kind of unity implies a harmony between creatures and all creation. 

 

What would it take for us to live in unity like that?
What would it take for us to be of one mind, and in full accord?
What would it be like to be of one heart and soul, as the writer of Acts describes the first believers in Jerusalem?
Of one heart and soul…

 

This implies an investing in the well-being of others.
This implies a binding of our lot to the lots of others.
This implies a laying down of race, of creed, of background, of education, of wealth, of political belief, of one’s own way…of control.

We lay down our very selves – our preferences & desires, dreams and hopes, fears and wants – trusting God with the whole, trusting God with the tiny, trusting God with all of us…

Can you imagine?!??

 

Each and every decision would be weighed by its impact to the whole.  Sacrifices would be made.  Love would be baked and cooked, prepared and eaten.  Love would be given and shared, broken and passed around.

Love would reign.
God would reign.
…God’s Kindom among us! 

 

But this is far from our daily experiences, is it not?
Not only is it far from our experiences in our neighborhoods, our communities, our city,
But it is far from our experience in church.
Is it not?

 

For all the love professed and often shared,
We also bicker and fight.
We keep score.
We take sides.
We remember perceived wrongs – telling and retelling and retelling them.
We grumble and complain.
We point the finger.
We blame.
…You know what I’m talking about.

 

THIS Is far from the UNITY Christ prayed for us at his end that we might have – by which others would know God’s love…
THIS is far from the UNITY the believers of Acts shared – pooling their resources for the well-being of all…
THIS is far from the UNITY the Psalmist writes of
…the kind that feels like warm fresh sheets, a delicate soft breeze, a meal shared among friends. 

And while some here are friends, others have remained perpetual outsiders, often uninvited to join in.  There are those who decisions are always questioned, their choices often doubted.  There are those whose ideas are not welcome but are kept at distance.  The inner circle may not be visible to those inside it.  But it is very visible to those outside it.

 

What would it take for church to feel good – like a delicious spread of food, or deep sweet rest, like a sigh of relief?
What would it take for church to be that experience of unity that gives us hope for the rest of the world, and our daily lives?
What would it take for us to be unified? 

How might Love require us to open ourselves, to make room for someone different?
How might Love require us to set aside our preference to prioritize another’s sensibilities?
How might Love compel us to bind ourselves to the well-being of one another?

 

What if our meetings were more characterized by excitement and joy than drudgery and keeping score?
What if Session operated less by Robert’s Rules and more by consensus, a coming together, a unity of heart and soul?
What if we stopped using guilt to try to persuade others to be more like ourselves?

What if church was truly a place we could try our best, mess up, and give it another go – in the grace and mercy of fellow believers – who too “go by the grace of God.”

What if church was truly the place where our society’s ranking system was laid down, surrendered, and “the least of these” are valued for their thoughts, their perspective, their insights and life experiences?

What if we can’t wait for church – because nothing compares to the welcome, the acceptance, the support, the encouragement, the forgiveness, the UNITY we know there?

What if? 

 

 

May Jesus’ prayer for us to be one – as he and God are one – be more than just words
…a nice thought
…a sweet dream.

May Jesus’ prayer be made real in us.
May WE become one – as one heart and soul –
…like fragrant anointing oil running down the head and into the beard,
…like the smell baked goods coming from the kitchen,
…a meal savored among friends,
…the comfort of your four-legged companion curled up beside you,
…like hot shower on a winter’s day.

How very GOOD and PLEASANT it is when kindred live together in unity. 

 

May WE know that UNITY
here
and
now:
God’s Kindom
among us. 

Halleluia!

 

 

 

“Sometime a Light Surprises”

Rev. Katherine Todd
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
John 20:1-18

 

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you — unless you have come to believe in vain.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them — though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

John 20:1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Nightmare of all nightmares, here was the singular man who had loved them like none other.  Here was the singular man who had opened hearts, minds, and souls.  Here was the singular man who had healed the sick and brought the dead back to life.

This man was re-making the world as it SHOULD be.  This man was calling each person to be the most whole person they COULD be.  This man showed them what LOVE looked like.  He showed them what faith felt like.

Everything that meant anything, he had touched in healing, in mercy, in grace, in truth, in forgiveness.  Everywhere he had gone, he bestowed blessing.  People ate because of him.  People drew near to God because of him.  People were restored to community and family because of him.  People lived because of him.

 

This man was nothing but Love.  This man was nothing, if not Truth.  This man had shown them the Way. 

 

And they were utterly heartbroken. 

 

 

The one they loved…
The singular one who’d loved them so well!…
The One who say both who they really were and who they could be…
THIS ONE the institutional leaders had set out to destroy. 

They plotted.
They planned.
They looked for opportunity,
justification,
excuse,
smoke-screen,
in order to take him down.

They could no longer bear the insults,
being called out,
being exposed for the sinfulness of their hearts,
having their rules and teachings challenged,
all the changes he incited,
having the lowliest among them exalted,
being passed over in the shadow of this exalted prophet…

But of course these lay below the surface.  Then there were the party lines:
He blasphemes God!
He presumes to be God’s own son!

 

It just wouldn’t do.
And so they hatched a plan.
The leadership happened upon a turncoat – Judas –
and they seized their opportunity
for insider information.

They carefully avoided the crowds.
Heck, they avoided the sun!
They came – like a thief in the night –
for this servant who had always come before them in the light.
They came – armed to the teeth –
for this servant who they knew possessed no weapons.

They came to silence him. 

 

And so it was that Jesus was betrayed by one he loved,
and handed over to those who wished him harm.
And all his disciples – named and unnamed, men and women all – were left in the confusion and darkness of what had transpired.  They were left powerless, to a system much more powerful than them.  They were left in mourning for the truest Love they had ever known.

And it was a living nightmare – ever worse, day by day. 

 

Perhaps some hoped for justice to win out in the end.

Perhaps some hoped for truth to come to light.

Perhaps some hoped Jesus would set himself free and disappear from the crowds, as he’d done amidst that angry mob who lost their illegal pig industry due to this prophet setting a tortured, demon-possessed man free.

Perhaps they imagined him speaking in power over the elements of nature – commanding an earthquake or storm – and taking over the establishment, taking over the government.

 

But everyday turned darker and darker
until it was clear
that nothing would divert the establishment
from its will. 
No.

 

He must cease to be.
…to exist.
…to breathe. 

 

He is handled most haphazardly – handed over to the government on accusation of treason.  His innocence is known, and yet, the will of the religious leadership presses the government powers.  And so in true government fashion for the day – a wager is put forth, a flip of the coin; the fickle will of the crowds will decide if Jesus lives or dies.

And the religious leadership is so very determined that they advise their own constituents to vote to release a murderer, rather than release the prophet.

Wow.

What kind of rationalization do you think that took?

…They really had to convince themselves of Jesus’ utter harmfulness in order to justify their backing the prisoner known for murder. 

 

The trial was never really a trial.  If it had been, it would have been carried out in the light….rather than in the night.  There was no decision to be made.  It had already been decided.  These leaders were merely deciding their point of attack – and they decide to co-opt government forces to do their murderous work for them.

THEN they’d have plenty of scapegoats

The government condemned Jesus! 

The crowds condemned Jesus! 

It wasn’t us!

 

And all the while, his family, friends, and disciples look on as the horror unfolds into a full-blown public crucifixion – designed for it’s pain, reputed for it’s notion of curse.

And they stand, looking on, watching his pain, hearing his words, seeing his flesh torn and ripped open, watching him struggle at last to take even. a. final. breath.

 

Jesus’ disciples are in shock.  They are in horror.
Perhaps they go to sleep hoping they’ll wake up to find it was only a dream.
Perhaps Jesus will command himself off of that cruel instrument of torture.
But alas, he endures.  He stays.

And they cannot avoid their pain, their grief, their fear…their living nightmare. 

 

And so on this morning of Jesus’ resurrection, his disciples are taken fully off-guard.  His disappearance from the tomb just feels more likely to be one more effort by the elite, to silence his memory.  And Mary Magdaline weeps.  She weeps and weeps outside that empty tomb.

 

She weeps until her eyes are puffy.

She weeps until her nose is stuffy.

She weeps she can hardly see, hardly speak, hardly move.  The others have left her behind.

And so it is

that when Jesus himself

comes to her in risen glory,

she thinks him the gardener.

…They are, after all, in a garden, a cemetery.  Who else might it be?!

 

NOTHING Mary has experienced in this life so far has prepared her to imagine this possibility.
Not even Jesus’ words could ready her to recognize him when he returns!
This is far out!

 

And, overcome by grief,
foggy with tears,
assuming things to be business as usual,
she does not recognize the answer to her prayers,
the One for whom she seeks,
standing
right
in front of her.

Halleluia! 

 

So I am here to say that whatever your grief

  • when it feels like business as usual, the same folks going down, the same folks climbing the ladder…
  • when it’s more of the same song and dance…
  • when justice is denied…
  • when truth is silenced…
  • when it seems the whole system is out to get you…

Do not
count out
God. 

We can be blinded by our grief.
We can be blinded by rage at injustice.
We can be blinded by our own mind – expecting only what we can anticipate and control.

But our God breaks our boxes.
Our God shatters our expectations.
Our God could not be held in a stone tomb! 

 

So even as we pray, and work, and yearn for God’s Kingdom,
may we learn to expect God’s inbreaking.

God is flipping the script.
God is turning the narrative on its head.

And if we are not encountering this table-flipping, tomb-escaping, bread breaking God,
then perhaps it is not God we worship after all. 

 

 

 

 

 

“Break Open, Pour Out

Rev. Katherine Todd
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Mark 14:1-11

 

Isaiah 50:4-9a

The Lord GOD has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens —
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord GOD has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.

The Lord GOD helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord GOD who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?

 

Mark 14:1-11

It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

In this story today I am struck by the personal and social dynamics at play.  Here an unnamed woman comes into the home of Simon the leper to anoint Jesus’ head with costly perfume – that which would be preserved for one’s own death and burial.  This costly gift was precious to a family, and here, this woman, pours it all out, on Jesus’ head.

What a profound expression of love, of cherishing, of devotion.  What a sacred act of worship!  What sacrifice!

This woman has moved from a place of calculation, of measured giving, to a place of pouring herself out – as it were – before Jesus.  She takes the leap from rational to unmeasured devotion.

And it brings *a collective gasp* over the dinner party.

 

None of them had done such!  They would have never dared!  …and it didn’t make sense, did it?!  After all there were a myriad of other ways she could have invested or given her gift – to make and impact or yield a return.  What an unnecessary waste!  What a frivolous outpouring.

But Jesus’ response is swift – “Leave her alone.  Why do you trouble her?  She has performed a good service for me…She has done what she could.  She has anointed me beforehand for my burial.”

 “She has done what she could.”
This was her greatest gift – broken open for Christ. 

 

First off, I am struck that the guests would presume to tell this woman what to do with her own possession.  Perhaps they thought her to be feebly female – her rational mind overrun by emotions, as we are long accustomed to despise.  There is certainly not a sense that she can do whatever she wills with her possession; they all have stepped in with disapproval and unsolicited advice.  Perhaps they feel it their obligation to wrangle this “free-wheeling” woman who appears to be acting without the authority, consent, or oversight of a man.

…And it is incensing:  the audacity, the condescension, with which she is regarded.

And what strikes me, is that in-all-likelihood, these onlookers don’t care about the poor.  In all likelihood, reference to the poor is merely a smoke-screen under which to hide their own failure of devotion.  For this woman’s action calls them out.  It stands juxtaposition these dinner party guests’ measured and calculated affections.

Her action
indicts
their inaction. 

Is it any wonder then, that folks instantly endeavor to belittle her?

Is it not in great effort to excuse themselves…under the guise of being more clever or wise with their resources?  …under the guise of truly caring more about others than they do themselves?  For many, the poor were merely a prop – to be used to make them feel better about themselves and their wealth – or to be used to garner praise and admiration from their peers when a pittance was offered from their coffers.

 

But here is this WOMAN – unable to earn money of her own, most likely, unable to make decisions on her own, most likely – giving away what may have been her most valuable possession, a practical possession, as it was her own burial arrangement.

Her act is pure.  It is unforeseen.  It is uncontrolled.  It is beautiful, as Jesus calls it.  And this word, “Beautiful” suggests “love lifted up as a fine art.”  It is embodied, emboldened, tangible love, of the highest form.

 

To revere her would require self-reflection of the uncomfortable sort – time spent with a mirror.
To celebrate her would be to empower all sorts of unsustainable, radically emotional and spontaneous gifts.

 

And here, Jesus, through Mark, lifts this unorthodox, unsanctioned action by an unnamed, uneducated woman up – up for all to see as beautiful and prophetic.

 

In the Gospel of Mark, it is repeatedly the outsiders who get it.  They are the ones whose words and actions proclaim the Kingdom of God.

In her bold anointing of Jesus’ head, this woman is proclaiming the Kingdom of God.  She embodies what all the learned men assembled cannot themselves see.  And she foreshadows Jesus’ death, while all are eating and drinking and making merry.

 

“If anyone has ears to hear, let them here!
…and eyes to see, let them see!”

 

The Interpreter’s Bible Commentary has this to say,

“Again, as we allow this scene to stay before our imagination, it speaks powerfully of the consecration of personality, the unmeasured sharing of the best that we are and have.  Personality is a precious perfume.  It is always a tragedy to carry it through life in an unbroken jar.  Yet many have done exactly that.  They have reserved themselves, their affection, their possible outgoing to those in deep need of friendship, comfort, incentive.  Such people wait for an audience that seems worthy of their self-giving, or an occasion important enough to call for it.  Life slips by and the perfume jar is never broken.  Others always measure themselves out with a medicine dropper, frightened lest they spend a drop more than the legalities of the situation demand.”

 

Christ is among us still.

May we not wait

– until our eyes can no longer see and our ears no longer hear –

to break open

and pour ourselves out,

the best of us,

as a fragrant offering for our God. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Love Turning the Tables of Sin”

Rev. Katherine Todd
Jeremiah 31:31-34
John 12:23-33

 

Jeremiah 31:31-34

The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt — a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

 

John 12:23-33

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say — ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say — ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.”

Hear this intimate moment we have with Jesus, hearing the trouble of his soul.

 

Have you ever felt troubled of soul?
Have you ever cried out to God – “Save me!”

 

Jesus is troubled but will not cry out for God to save him – as he recognizes his purpose is bound up in this moment.
He recognizes that in this moment, something larger is at play.  And he knows that – in the end – God will use his death to “draw all people” to himself.

And so he remains
present in that miserable moment.
He remains
present
even as the waters of his soul are troubled.

 

How many of us are present to our pain? 

I know we all have deepest pains in our lives, and yet we are taught to sweep it under the rug,
to press through it,
to keep going,
to dry our tears and suck it up…

And Jesus not only expresses the distress of his soul, but cries most earnest tears in that garden, before he is arrested.

Jesus sits with his pain.
Jesus doesn’t turn on Netflix or start scrolling Facebook.
He doesn’t party harder, drink in excess, or just stay busy.
No.
He quiets himself.
He sits with his troubled heart.

 

And then he is able to press through it.

 

You see in sitting with it, he is facing reality head-on, un-medicated.

In sitting with his pain of spirit, he is pressing in, rather than leaning out.

Jesus is facing the awful truth that great fear and acts of evil will seek to end him.
He is facing a most painful transition.
He is facing the loss of this human life, alongside his friends.

He – who has touched so many in healing – will be the object of a people’s effort to silence him and to control the message…
He – who healed the sick and set the prisoner free – will be imprisoned, tortured, and barbarically killed…on full display.

I cannot imagine how Jesus felt, in the months and weeks and days leading up to his crucifixion.  Jesus knows what is coming, and proceeds anyway, step after troubling step. 

 

And he sees that his followers would face much the same opposition and suffering.
And he encourages them saying – you will do even greater things!

Note – Jesus does not say they will have it easy because he has it hard.
He doesn’t guarantee smooth passage, in fact he pretty much guarantees rough passage. 

He does not imply that they will know ease and comfort in this life.
Rather he compares his followers to seeds – that must fall to the ground and die – in order to yield and multiply their fruit. 

 

Like himself, Jesus’ followers would die in faithfulness to the Truth,
in love for God and God’s people
and like Jesus, they would not die at God’s own tender hands,
but at the merciless hands of people who do not know God, who do not see God, and who do not care.

And for anyone awake,
Alert,
Alive,
This is an emotional journey.

But in death, as in life,
Jesus models for us a way to handle such grief, pain, and affliction:
by being present to them
,
being present to that grief, pain, and affliction.
Notice, Jesus doesn’t take himself off the cross early or heal himself, as he most certainly could have done.
Jesus doesn’t command a storm to erase his enemies and free him from that most terrible crucifixion.
He is present. 
He bears it.  He endures.
He speaks peace.  He speaks truth.
He prays.  He keeps on caring…to the end.
And not without cries of pain, complaints and questioning of God,
not without his plea that there might be another way. 

And I suspect that if we are ever to live lives a fraction as faithful as our Lord Christ, we too need learn this deepest form of presence. 

 

Henri Nouwen was a Dutch Catholic priest, a professor, a writer, and a theologian.  He wrote many beloved classics – some of which were recently donated by colleague Helen Laundry.  In his life, he aimed to speak faith into the most personal and universal matters of daily living.  And he writes this entitled, “Befriend Your Pain”

“I want to say to you that most of our brokenness cannot be simply taken away.  It’s there.  And the deepest pain that you and I suffer is often the pain that stays with us all our lives.  It cannot be simply solved, fixed, done away with…  What are we then told to do with that pain, with that brokenness, that anguish, that agony that continually rises up in our heart?  We are called to embrace it, to befriend it.  To not just push it away…to walk right over it, to ignore it.
No, to embrace it, to befriend it, and say, “That is my pain and I claim my pain as the way God is willing to show me his love.”

 

This is a different way of responding to pain than most of us run to.
Most often we numb it,
run from it,
deny it,
bury it.

But to befriend it,
To recognize our pain as yet another way that we shall know God’s great love,
THAT is courageous.
THAT is hopeful.
THAT is redemptive.
And THAT is what we see in our Lord, Jesus Christ.

 

Jesus walks through his valley of the shadow,
his dark night of the soul,
even while seeing it coming
because he KNOWS that the sacrifice of his life – sacrificed by human hands who did not know and did not love him – will nevertheless yield a great harvest of righteousness.  Through this most gruesome and tragic murder, Christ would indeed draw ALL people to himself – writing the law of God on hearts, instead of stones, in order that EVERYONE might know God.

Halleluia!

In this hell-of-our-own-making, in this senseless murder of a young man of color, in this our effort to prevent the ending of an era of fear-based works-righteousness – with all the power, privilege, and wealth it afforded a few – Christ nonetheless turned all this, our sin, on its head!

Even as we murdered Love,
Love was saving us. 

For our salvation, Christ endured such abuse none should bear.

 

So, as we walk this lonesome valley
– often alone in times of greatest trial, as was Christ –
may we recognize that WE ARE NOT ALONE
FOR CHRIST WALKS IT WITH US.
…For Christ is alive today, in our hearts!

We – who have died to this world and come alive to Christ –
Are under the jurisdiction of Christ.
Our lives are not determined by the evils that swirl around us or the sins that cling so closely.
Our lives are infused with the power of Christ living within us. 

 

So in our living and our dying
and in our resurrection from the dead,
may we too quiet ourselves,
and be present
– amid both joys and pain.

And by pressing in – whate’r our days may bring –
may we too
persevere
to the end,
by the power and presence of Christ,
living in us.

And in-so-doing,
may Christ flip every sin, every evil perpetrated against us, every failure to love and use them to build up the Kingdom
so that
many more might know – in the depths of their being –
just how steadfast and enduring,
long-suffering and relentless
is God’s love for them.

Amen.