When you are hurt as badly as any person or any power
in this world can hurt you, how do you respond?
Luke 23:26 tells us that Jesus was led outside the city to a place where he would be executed. They came to a place called the Skull (the Latin word was “Calvaria”), “and there they crucified him.”
More than a few of us know what is like to be led away, by life and circumstance, to a place of suffering. I listen as people tell me stories of hurt, of disappointment and betrayal and pain, and I wonder how they have been able to go on living and loving. Sometimes I say, “I’m so sorry.” Sometimes I think, “What kept you from giving up?”
What keeps you from giving up when life leads you out to that place?
That’s How the Light Gets In
You’ve probably discovered what I have learned: when life has done its worst to us, who we are down deep can be seen. A crack in the earth lets us see what was once hidden down deep beneath the surface.
A large tree toppled across the trail I often walk in Brown County, and on Sunday evening I studied the rings that tell the story of the tree.
When a friend went off to retire and play, after more than forty years of serving God, he fell down while playing tennis just a few months after retiring. When he got back to his feet, he couldn’t see. Ross never could see again…when his life was to have been full of fishing trips and tennis. Despite those eyes that no longer worked for him, Ross lived a hallelujah life of service and joy until he was done here.
Leonard Cohen, in his song “Anthem,” sings about how when we are broken the light comes through:
We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government —
signs for all to see.
I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned,
they’ve summoned up
and they’re going to hear from me.
Ring the bells that still can ring …
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Could it be that the light of God, the light of truth, and the light of love all come through our cracked places? Can there be light in the darkest moments, and life in the times when we have been nailed to wood?
Words from the Cross
No matter how many times I read the story, I am always stunned by what Jesus does on the cross. He’s been put on a cross, the crowds are laughing, the religious leaders should know better, the politicians don’t have the courage to do what is true and right, and yet Jesus (23:34) prays, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Mocked by two criminals, he responds to the one, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” What kind of person is thinking of others, praying on behalf of their murderers, as they hang on a cross? What keeps Jesus from giving up?
Where Do You Put Your Hands?
The answer to that question is to be found in the last words he speaks (according to Luke) in 23:46: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” In the place of his greatest pain and disappointment, Jesus is still speaking to God. Jesus trusts that he is not alone and, in fact, that God shares this body-breaking moment with him. And, finally, Jesus has confidence in God’s power to hear us and receive us and save us even when the cross we are on has done its worst. God’s love is more powerful than the moments of death and violence and unkindness that threaten to destroy us (see Romans 8!).
What do people see in you when you are led by life, circumstance, betrayal or failure to your hard place? How will you let God prepare you to live through the hard places with faith and hope? Do you face the crucifixion moments with confidence in God?
One of the ways God gets us ready for the hard places, for the chapters that would break us wide open, is by offering the opportunity to walk through this week with his Son. Faith, hope, love and courage get inside us, I am convinced, when we walk with Jesus through the events of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and then Easter Sunday.
Don’t miss the drama and meaning of Thursday and Friday, skipping over them in a hurry to get to Easter. In these days God is helping us get ready to live with faith, courage and hope even in the hardest places. Even in the darkest moments, the light of God and God’s saving love can shine through our cracked places!
Remember to join us in worship for:
- Maundy Thursday Communion at 7 p.m. in the Sanctuary. Foot-washing will also be offered as an optional part of the worship experience.
- Good Friday Community Service at 12:15 p.m. in our Sanctuary.
- Easter Sunday Worship at 9 & 11 a.m. in the Sanctuary & 11:15 a.m. at the Buskirk-Chumley for The Open Door.
If at all possible, and you are a regular attender and able-bodied, please park in the downtown parking garage or park a full block away from the church/theater. Please consider doing this to leave the parking spots closest to the church for first time guests.
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3 CONVERSATIONS THAT COULD BLESS OUR CHURCH & WORLD FOR YEARS TO COME
Three very significant conversations took place at the Church Council on the evening of March 21st. Watch for more information about all three but here is what happened:
- The Church Council unanimously approved a Small Group Ministry Proposal presented by an FCJ team headed by Andrew Bunger. Watch for more small group offerings in the Fall of 2016! A long-standing Wesleyan/Methodist and FUMC tradition: small groups where people can grow in Christ, in relationships with others and in serving.
- A much discussed Spiritual Growth Plan/Discipleship Plan, presented by an FCJ team headed by Jonathan Purvis, was also unanimously approved. People grow in their faith in all sorts of ways, and we will have an intentional plan to help people address their spiritual life and grow in Christ. Thanks to all who offered such helpful input! This Plan will guide our work together!
- A report of the FCJ Building/Facilities Study Committee, headed by Dean Roller, was presented by the architects from Kirkwood Designs and Entheos. No vote was taken on the report, which will be shared with the congregation in large and small group settings, but it involves addressing:
- Deferred maintenance.
- The need for a central entrance.
- Fellowship space close to the sanctuary.
- Moving the choir closer to the sanctuary.
- Expanding the Gathering Place and moving the elevator so it can reach the third floor.
- Turning the sanctuary 180-degrees so that the Chancel is located in the west end of the building, with main entrances on the east end of the structure. Doors would lead out into the Gathering Place, opening up the space, providing more opportunities for fellowship.
Watch for opportunities to hear more about the plan!