Ms. Meredith Hollingsworth
Kay Spiritual Life Center
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Romans 15:13; Luke 22:39-50
Romans 15:13 • I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with JOY and PEACE because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Luke 22:39-50 • 39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
45When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46“Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
7 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
There is a lot of suffering in this world and it is hard to explain why. You see it every day in the friend who hasn’t yet overcome his or her demons, the homeless person living out on the streets, the depletion of resources, and the loss of loved ones to illness or war. The picture painted here isn’t pretty. It’s harsh and often leaves us wondering if there is anything we can do. At these times, Paul’s words seem empty. How is it possible to trust in God when there is plenty of evidence that God hasn’t fixed everything, let alone be filled with joy and peace when the world is crumbling around you? I mean. That’s just silly.
These paradoxes have often made me question God. I’ve been angry, perplexed and worried that God simply didn’t care even when the bible clearly states that God will restore the world. Again and again God’s redeeming promise can be seen in the rainbow in the story of Noah, the journey of the Israelites into the promise land, the words of the prophets telling of God’s coming reign where Justice will roll down from heaven and righteousness will flow in a never ending stream, and in the story of Jesus himself. It seems like it would be easy to be filled with joy and peace because of these promises but sometimes its not.
Two thousand years after the resurrection of Jesus, there is still a lot in the world that is in need of redemption and its hard not to be overwhelmed by it. The Native Americans and many other indigenous peoples are still oppressed after years of struggling for their rights, dictators still oppress their peoples and many people are left homeless after wars or natural disasters. Just turn on your nightly news or scan the front page of a paper and you’ll see that there is still much work to be done.
In fact, many of us see brokenness our own lives. Our relationships are not what we’d like them to be, we have habits that we’d rather break, and we often fail to walk with justice, kindness, and love in our hearts. For me, this fall was a blaring reminder of the brokenness in the world and within myself. I was perplexed at the thought of global warming while my other classes gave me more and more examples about how racism, classism, and sexism were hurting society.
I was also breaking from within.
Many of the relationships I valued were changing, leaving me unsure of my place. A series of events including the death of my grandfather also caught me off guard and left me feeling vulnerable and weak. Beyond that though, I was still struggling with the voice that told me, “You are worthless and will never accomplish anything” that has been with me most of my life. I was tired of that voice and I soon gave into the depression that had been looming above my head for quite some time.
It was at this point that I started to question God. Nothing I did seemed to make it better and I wanted God to show me the path I should take to get out of that place. The thing was, God wasn’t telling me what I should do or why I was there. Leaving me feeling even more lost. All that I really got from God was, “Don’t worry, I am with you, Trust me. Everything will be ok. “ I wasn’t satisfied with God’s answer though. I wanted life to be easy, I wanted my homework to do itself.
Looking back at the story of Jesus, however, you see that God doesn’t always give Jesus the answers he wanted either. Before Jesus was to die on the cross he goes to the Mount of Olives to pray and asks God to relieve his suffering, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; Yet not my will, but yours be done,” he said (Luke 22:42). It is clear, here, that Jesus, like many of us have, is asking God to remove the suffering from his life and allow him to go free. It would have been a lot easier on Jesus to have not died on the cross and live on into old age. It would have been easier for him if God had just taken the cup. But that’s not what God did. God did not give Jesus the easy answer. God let Jesus die on the cross.
What is interesting about this, however, is Jesus response. Jesus does not run away, he doesn’t even complain too much. Instead he prays even more earnestly after God appears to him in the form of an angel who strengthens him. One can only assume that he is praying for peace and strength and meditating on the words he spoke earlier in prayer: “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” The way in which Jesus carries himself to the cross following his decent from the mountain is a testament to the inner peace God has given him in his time of trial. Even as Judas betrays him, he does not lash out in anger but rather speaks words of peace and heals those around him. The scars on Jesus’ hands and sides after his resurrection also remind us of his ability to show God’s redeeming love while he was still wounded himself.
The concept of the wounded healer is something that Mark told me about last week, but it is something that has really resonated with me. In my own life it reiterates the concepts that God has been teaching me: that I am not defined by my pain and suffering but by what I choose to do with them. It reminds me that there is a force greater than pain, meaning beyond loss, and reasons to hope for a better tomorrow.
In my healing process, then, it seemed like I was going to have to trust God even if things weren’t turning out the way I wanted them to.
It seemed that I was going to have to look my anxieties and my fears directly in the face and make peace with them. Or at least acknowledge that there was a force greater than them because they weren’t going away and time soon. My grandfather was still dead, my mom’s later diagnosis was still the same, the relationships I valued had changed, and that voice that constantly tells me “You are not good enough” will never be completely silenced.
That is ok though because I know that God is with me in my times of trial. The story of Jesus reminds us that we too have our own Easters coming and that God will not abandon us. It reminds us that we can find peace even when there is hard work to be done or our lives are full of trouble. It is because we know that God’s redeeming love wins out in the end that we can be filled with completely with Joy and Peace as Paul suggests in Romans. In fact, we can “overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit” and become healing agents for those around us. We too, can be wounded healers.
In fact I have already seen many people inside and outside this community be wounded healers. Everyone here tonight has something they struggle with, yet I have seen so much of God’s redeeming love at work in this community and my friends that may or may not be here tonight. You loved me even when I couldn’t love myself. This means the world to me. I love you all dearly and hope that we can continue to find Joy and Peace together amidst the struggles of life. Especially as finals week approaches.
Peace be with you. Amen.