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This was the 4th word of Christ. Delivered April 6,2012 at Jarrettown’s Good Friday Service

 

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46

After Jesus saw his mother, and spoke his third word, it is written that darkness filled the sky. From twelve until three, darkness descended on the whole land. It wasn’t a sunset or and eclipse. First there was sun; then there wasn’t.

I can’t help but wonder, those who weren’t present at the crucifixion thought as they worked in their fields or washed their clothes in the river? What did they say and do as they ate their mid-day meal in the dark? The Bible doesn’t say the day turned to night—with familiar stars that might provide people with some comfort. Not night. Darkness.

For three hours.

Then, as abruptly as the darkness descended, the sun reappeared and Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ” Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? “ [Eh-lo-eye, Eh-lo-eye, lama sub-ACHT-en-eye.]

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This saying is traditionally called “The Word of Abandonment” and is the only one of Jesus’s final statements that appears in more than one Gospel.Not only does it appear in Matthew, it is also found in Mark 15:34. It is the opening line of Psalm 22, a psalm about persecution, the mercy and salvation of God.

I find it interesting that these are the first words Jesus makes which refer to himself rather than others. He’s asked his Father for forgiveness for others, told a thief of his salvation, and guaranteed a safe future for his mother. Then darkness covers the land and Jesus cries out to his Father—“Where are you? Why have you left me?”

Jesus is facing death by himself. He sounds so…alone. So… human.

I’ve always felt that the darkness was the moment all our sins were placed on Jesus. He took on his Apostles’ sins. He took on Pilate’s sins. He took on Judas’ sins. He took on the thieves’ sins. Through time and space, he took on my sin and your sin. For three long hours, he took on all sins from all people, from all time.

And it appears that it severed Jesus’ intimate relationship with God.

Jesus, though he walked on earth, walked with God. He prayed to God; he worshiped God; he served God. Jesus told the Jewish leaders in John 5:19, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” He goes on to say, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself, but him who sent me.”

And now, as he takes on our sin, he cries out in his abandonment.

What about those who weren’t present at the crucifixion? The men working in their fields—the women washing clothes or cleaning up after the meal? They had no idea what Jesus was doing for them at that moment.

And today, though we have grocery stores to provide us with food and appliances to clean our clothes and our dishes—are we really so different from them? Can we truly claim that we understand what Jesus was doing for us?

One of Jesus’ final acts as he took on all our sin, was to demonstrate how sin separates us from God.

Just as Jesus felt alone from God as he bore the weight of all sin, we too are missing an intimate relationship with God when we are in the midst of sin.

When we feel lost and alone—separate from God, it is sin that is the wall.

But we can rejoice. Because Jesus took on our sin, that wall doesn’t have to keep us from having a personal relationship with God.

Jesus suffered—He felt alone and abandoned. He felt human. But He died and rose again so that we might know the Father and be with him in paradise.

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Psalm 145:18-19

18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.

These are getting harder. I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve done so many of these or if I’m starting to feel that I’m entirely out of my element. As I’m writing these I’m thinking, “I don’t have any expertise in this! Who in their right mind should follow my spiritual teachings.”

He has risen

He has risen

Lord, I can’t even count correctly. Lent is supposed to be 46 days. Or 40 if you don’t count Sundays. I thought I was writing one a day and several times when I counted, I thought I was up to date. At one point, I think I was even ahead. But now I’m either two days ahead or 4 days behind.

I often wonder if God is near. I know in “theory” he is–but I’m a practical kind of girl and really wonder if God has any tolerance for the more mundane aspects of my life. But David is telling us in this passage that the Lord is near to all who call on Him.

I struggle with the fear aspect of the second verse. I don’t know if I fear God in the classic sense. Fearing God seems very Old Testament. It is more a sense of fear of disappointing Him. I feel that God has given me (and you) so many gifts and talents and to abuse them through apathy, or frustration, or whatever, I’m doing a disservice to God. The Boy is a fabulous comic book writer/artist. When he was younger, he’d made a few comic books that we’d made color copies of and had given out to friends and family. He was fortunate enough in middle school to have been picked to do a comic strip for the school paper. I thought it was fabulous! I would have LOVED an opportunity to have my talents recognized in middle school. Him? Nah. Didn’t want to do it. He said it was stupid and “gay” and he declined. I was so disappointed.

Now I know I’m not God by ANY stretch but comparing God to parenting is the only thing I can wrap my head around. Here was my wonderful, talented son being recognized and given a fabulous opportunity and he WAS TURNING IT DOWN!!!

I worry when I don’t write that God is feeling just like I did. He’s up there thinking, “I gave her all this talent and she’s just wasting it!” That’s the fear that I have for God.

But I can rejoice (and you can too) in that God hears our cries and saves us. He wraps His arms around us and comforts us. Verse 17 confirms His love:

17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and loving toward all he has made.

As our time of Lent comes to a close and we get to rejoice in the coming Easter, remember all that God has given us. He has sacrificed His most precious Son that we might have a relationship with Him.

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Isaiah 43:2

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.

Yeah, I am NOT this perky at 8am. My group is just glad I'm actually dressed.

On Saturday mornings, I host a small bible study/devotional meeting. We use the ancient and reviving method called Lectio Divina for studying our scripture. There is an article on Beliefnet explaining more about the process, but for the purposes of this entry, here are the basics.

A scripture verse is read slowly three times by all the members in our group.

  1. The first time, we simply read the verse and privately meditate on how it is relevant to us and what God is placing on our hearts.
  2. The second time, each person states one word that they feel speaks to them. It is said without comment or discussion.
  3. The third time, we each offer what we feel the particular word means for us or what we feel God is saying to us with the scripture or word.

Finally, we open up the room up for discussion and dialog.

I’m always amazed at the varied feedback I get from the ladies in the group. Typically, around six of us get together every week and even when some of us select the same word, it never means the same thing to two of us. Sometimes one of us will change our minds based on what other people have said. It is amazing that one verse can hold so much meaning. I use a verses each week from Max Lucado’s online devotional and have been tempted in the past to “pick” verses that seem more interesting. Every so often I think, “this verse is boring, we won’t have anything to say about it.” And every time I think it, I am wrong.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2

This is the long-winded way of saying, for me, the word that stands out in today’s bible verse is “when.”

This scripture isn’t saying that as a Christian I won’t face troubles–it isn’t saying that as a Christian if I face troubles God will be with me. This scripture is assuring me that when I face troubles, God is there.

Water always wins

It is interesting that it speaks of both water and fire–the yin and yang. Falling back on my Dr. Who background, I remember one recent episode where an alien is essentially water. The Doctor’s group is in an airtight room and the leader says, “It’s okay, we are sealed up and airtight.” (because they are on Mars) to which The Doctor replies (probably while waving his little sonic screwdriver), “Water always wins.” We only have to look as far as the Grand Canyon to see an example on this side of the pond.

Just recently, our area has seen the results of excessive amounts of water and can speak to the exhaustion one feels when overwhelmed by it. It can be suffocating–literally. And yet, God will not allow it to overwhelm me.

While water seems to overwhelm everything, fire destroys. Huge swaths of land are destroyed every year by wild fires. It, like water, is indiscriminate and absolute. It leaves nothing behind in its wake. Yet God is there. He is with me. And He will not allow me to be consumed.

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Ephesians 1:13-14

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,  to the praise of his glory.

The word I focus on the most here is “sealed.” I think my husband described it best. He said that if a door is sealed, it is done so in a manner that it cannot be opened without damaging both the door and the frame. The items are forever altered if the seal is broken.

The New Living Translation version says,

And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.

He identified you as his own. We are guaranteed that he will give us the inheritance he promised. God purchased us to be his own people.

What a wonderful thing to be able to take solace in–that he purchased us to be his own people. Back in the day, an inheritance carried a lot more weight than it does today. Today it is usually a monetary sum or home, but back in the day, an inheritance also carried your reputation.

Because we believe in God, we inherit His treasures, His home–and everlasting life.

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James 1:5-6

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

I find it really interesting that this scripture about the sea comes a day after having been on Long Beach Island.

I have to confess that I have a dilemma about this verse. It smacks a little bit too much of “The Secret” or the power of positive thinking. It gives the impression that God is some wizard in the Emerald City, granting wishes to those who ask. I don’t think that is true. I do believe that God answers all prayers, it’s just that sometimes the answer is “no” or “not yet.”

I’ve always followed the philosophy, “trust in God but lock the front door anyway.” Is that doubting? Is that not trusting that God will keep me and my family safe? I don’t think so. I think God demands a fair amount of common sense from us. My problem is, when I lock the door, I worry that there needs to be another lock, and maybe an alarm and while I’m at it, I’ll check the police blotters and check out who are the latest members on Megan’s Law. Basically, I am driven and tossed by the wind.

What I think that most people don’t realize, is that when God does give us what we ask, it sometimes isn’t what we expect. When I find myself having a tough day and plead for patience, I often find myself in more stressful situations. Wait! That isn’t fair! I wanted things to be easier, not harder! But the best way to become patient is to practice by being in situations that require patience.

I’ll admit it, I wasn’t very patient with The Boy when he was little. I didn’t have a lot of experience and lacked any shred of confidence. I did get better with The Girl, but it wasn’t until, 8 years later, when I had The Baby, that I suddenly discovered how much patience I had. This is not to say I am a patient person. I am definitely a work in progress. Now, almost a decade later, I’m not bothered by the things that freaked me out with Thing One and Thing Two. Tantrums in the grocery store–big deal. Potty training? Who cares–they are all in underpants by kindergarten. When I look to see how much patience I’ve gained over the years, I’m amazed! God did answer my prayers. It was just, “wait a minute.”

There were, and are, missteps along the way. I still take something to the Lord and then decide that his timing isn’t working. I’ll grab it back and, as The Message says, “worry my prayers.” I know it isn’t effective, and more often than not, take my tattered little prayer back to Him with an “I’m sorry.”

I love this poem — I think it was written by Robert Burdette:

Broken Dreams

As children bring their broken toys
With tears for us to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to God
Because He was my friend.

But instead of leaving Him
In peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help
With ways that were my own.

At last I snatched them back and cried,
“How can you be so slow?”
“My child,” He said, “What could I do?
You never let them go.”

Thankfully, He “gives generously to all without reproach.” Even me. With all my doubting.

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“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me,” John 10:14 NIV

The playground is loud and crowded as dozens of children climb on the monkey bars, swing, and play in the sandbox. Most parents sit off to the side, speaking with each other or enjoying a few, rare moments of solitude.

Then it happens—from somewhere in the group of children comes a cry. It is different from the surrounding joyful squeals and shouts. “Mommy!” someone calls.

One mother instantly responds while the other parents continue their activities without pausing. Mothers and fathers will tell you—they know their child’s cry.

Studies have shown that newborns are almost immediately able to identify a parent’s voice. They turn towards the sound, preferring it to a stranger’s call. Even in their newness, they know their parent’s voice.

Our Father hears our cries and knows us in our darkest, most fearful moments. In the midst of all his sheep, he comes to us when we cry out.

Father, you are the good shepherd and you know us. You come to us and lay down your life for us. Help us to be like a newborn—to know you, to turn our faces towards you, and to respond to your voice in the midst of strangers.

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At one of my recent bible studies (yes, I go to a few, and yes, you’re right, they probably aren’t working), someone asked why the Bible wasn’t more specific. He was asking why Jesus spoke in parables and couldn’t just come right out and tell us what we were supposed to do in all the situations that we face.

Good question.

chumley_onionHere’s my thought. The Bible is like an onion (and Shrek). It has layers. The deeper you go with an onion, the stronger it is. The deeper you go with the Bible, the stronger it gets. If you work with an onion, cutting it or peeling it, it affects you and everyone around you. If you work with the Bible, reading it and deciphering it, it also affects you and those around you. When I’ve been cooking with onions, my whole family knows it. When I’ve spent time with the Bible, (I hope) everyone knows it too.

So why isn’t the Bible a little more specific. Now I’m not a theologian and I don’t play one on TV, so please don’t take my message to your Sunday School teacher and tell him/her, “Rebecca said the Bible is an onion–stinky, slimy, and great on a burger.” No, please don’t say that. And don’t say the Bible is like Shrek either. I’m trying to make a point, and S, I’m talking specifically to you!

The Bible was written for all times. Can you imagine James or Matthew sitting down and writing, “Now, when you have to deal with a crappy boss at work who wants you to work overtime without pay and to make the computers round everyone’s salary down by 1¢ (see Superman III), Jesus wants you to do ‘this’.”

  • Number 1, I don’t think it would have made it past King James when he was picking out books for the Bible.
  • Number 2, can you imagine how BIG it would have needed to be to cover everything that everyone might face?

Instead, Mark (10:19) writes “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'” That probably covers the whole stealing and cheating thing.

Also, remember how, when we were young and just learning to read? Books were very simple and very specific. Not a lot was left to the imagination because we were young and just couldn’t comprehend some of the nuances of a more advanced story line. Could you imagine reading those books now? Sure they are easy to read–but do they hold your interest? Do you want to return to them, day after day for comfort and guidance? Or, as you’ve grown older, and more mature, do you desire information that is more theoretical, more challenging, books that make you want to grow and advance as an individual. Well, if the Bible were brought down to such an elementary level, void of any sort of mystery, would we still be so quick to turn to it for guidance?

Think about how relevant the Bible is for every age. Children can embrace the stories and learn to love an open and gentle God.

16And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.(Mark 10:16)

Teens and young adults can read about struggles with stress, violence and poverty, challenging them to strive to make a difference in today’s society and lifting them up.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)

but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.” (Luke 9:53-56).

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)

Parents can look to the Bible for guidance in raising their children and having a successful marriage (and I don’t necessarily mean the whole ‘obey’ part–I spoke about that before: “Today’s 15 minutes brought to you by the word…” and I won’t go into how the Bible allows us to spank our children (because if we want to be literal with the Bible, believe me, God will let us be literal and we will likely regret it). But the Bible tells us how we should treat our children and our spouses–even though it doesn’t specifically reference the whole, “taking out the trash or whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher.” It tells us: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12). Wait, maybe that is telling my daughter the consequences of not emptying the dishwasher. Personally, I think Colossians 3:19-21 made it pretty clear with:

A husband must love his wife and not abuse her. Children must always obey their parents. This pleases the Lord. Parents, don’t be hard on your children. If you are, they might give up.

magic8ballThe nice thing about the Bible and its many layers is that we find what we need to give us comfort at any time in our lives. Now I know a lot of people abuse the Bible in this respect. They pick out one verse and claim it is the definition and undeniable fact about whatever point they are trying to make. They think they can place their finger on a random scripture in the Bible and argue that is God’s message to them. The Bible, while it may be an onion, is NOT a Magic 8 ball. We cannot go to it for a peek into our future. We can’t randomly select scripture to support our cause and then claim “ask again later” is okay when our finger doesn’t land on what we want the Bible to say.

While it sometimes would be nice to have some concrete, specific action-items laid out for all of us OCD personalities (I’m looking at YOU, T and H), I enjoy the fact that the Bible never gets old for me. I never reach the end of the onion and a scripture verse that frustrates me at one point in my life, often brings me comfort at another point.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

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