Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Darkest Day

December 21st is the darkest day of the year.

As people who believe in a God who brings hope and joy, sometimes we like to avoid talking about dark days. We like to be optimistic and see God’s goodness in providence. We spout clichés to try to rid the world of its darkness.

The problem with such unrealistic optimism is that, well, it’s just not biblical. The Bible, both New and Old Testaments are heavy with sorrow, heartache, pain, suffering, and all manners of darkness. Our scripture has a whole book of Lamentations, for goodness sake. Mark paints Jesus as a suffering savior. In fact, all the gospels spend a disproportionate time on Jesus’ darkest days. They have Jesus, in the height of his career, proclaiming his demise. They have him crying tears of blood and screaming, “My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?” They have his disciples persecuted and imprisoned. When we open our Bibles, we find darkness.

It seems to me, that in the face of such darkness, we should not ignore the pain, using smiles and clichés like aspirins. Such medications wear off quickly, and the root of our sorrow will lash out again.
So what are we to do?

We start with being honest with God. We are to remember that Jesus has been through the darkness of the soul and understands what it is like to feel forsaken by God. God understands what it is to lose a loved one…he lost his very own son at the hands of those he sent his son to help. He doesn’t consider our pain as something to brush off. It matters to him.

After we have given voice to our burdens, we then allow Jesus to carry them. Often times we can find ourselves allowing our wounds to stay open, when God is ready to heal us. Finding this balance is hard, but it is giving these burdens to God, that we find resurrection. Resurrection, the greatest joy there is, by its definition must follow death.

So, whatever darkness you are carrying this season, know you are not alone. And know there will come a day of resurrection, a day you will experience joy anew. December 21st is the darkest day precisely because the next day is a little brighter. Darkness may stay longer than we wish, and it may disappear slower than the sunrise on December 22nd, but God is with us, and resurrection is coming.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Worth It

It was fun to have so many of our church community at our house this last Sunday. Afterwards, Nick and I pulled out the hidden laundry that needed folded and started up the washing machine.
 “I’m exhausted,” I said as a flopped down on the chair. “But, I think it was worth it.”
Nick answered, “It was definitely worth it.”

Now if you have hosted at your house you know that exhaustion. All the prep so that everything is just right, down to the towels in the bathroom. And you probably know that feeling of exhaustion afterwards. Sometimes, it seems a little more worth all the effort than others. We have hosted things on both sides of that line. But this was really worth it.

It was worth it for our church folks to get to see all the work put into the parsonage over the last year. From those who had seen it after the new floors, cabinets, and appliance, we heard it looked great with things in it. It is funny how that house they repaired now has become a home, with a personality all its own. Many people came through and said “thank you” to which we said, “actually, thank you” because it was these people who had done the initial work of preparation.

But, the real thing that made it worth it, more than anything else, were two guests. They were the first to come, and the last to leave. They were a k.i.C.k family, a father and his 2nd grade daughter. His daughter scampered upstairs to play with Lydia, while the father found a spot in the living room. As church folk arrived, the room filled to capacity, and while other rooms would empty and fill and empty again as people chatted and moved through the house, the living room would always have people in it. The father would listen to conversations about the house. He would listen to light hearted jokes and the ensuing laughter, and he would discover church. Not the formal experience of Sunday morning, but the shared life that happens among us the rest of the week.
After everyone else had gone, he asked us some questions. He asked us if we had just remodeled the house. That was a fun one to explain. He asked about worship services too. Now I don’t know if he will make it to those services. Lots of people ask, but getting into the habit of Sunday morning is hard. But that asking…that experience of seeing him connect with the body of Christ for two hours and that experience provoking him to a deeper step…that made it worth it.

Jesus told a story that there once was a man who had 100 sheep. Only one of them wondered off. But he left the 99, to find that one.

So for us, that one (or two) was worth it.