(Message given at Newberg Friends Church on August 2, 2015)
This week we chose to set aside our original plan for worship. The new title for today is “When We Hurt.”
When we hurt is now. I am sure that every single Sunday, we have individual people here with us who are hurting. Today, though, we are experiencing hurt as a community, and we are experiencing it for more than one reason. When we hurt is now.
Before I’m through today, I want to address what hope we have when we hurt. But first, I want to spend some time naming that we hurt, naming some of why we hurt. I do this in keeping with a growing calling I’ve felt lately to be someone who calls things out in the open and into the Light, to be a voice that names what is. We hurt. We hurt for many reasons.
Some hurt because people we trusted have let us down in unthinkable ways. Some hurt because the description of the allegations of abuse are far more awful than we knew before. Some hurt because the descriptions raise up old memories, rip off scabs in various stages of healing, remind us of past or maybe even present pain that is so very hard to face. We hurt. We hurt for many reasons.
Some hurt because we have discovered there are people in our community who would rather separate from those with whom they disagree, than remain in community and fellowship. Some hurt because we have discovered there are people in our community who accept something that we have always believed is wrong. We hurt. We hurt for many reasons.
Some of you hurt, and it is because of your own personal journey with broken relationships or illness or job loss or addictions. And the fact that so many others in our community are focused on other hurts, while you are facing your own private pain…it just adds to your isolation and grief. We hurt. We hurt for many reasons.
Sadly, the experience of hurt and pain seems universal in this world we live in.
Not that all of existence is always pain, but rather that no one seems to escape some measure of hurt and pain in life. It is the age old struggle that philosophers and poets, that all of us wrestle to answer: how do we make sense of this pain, how do we find goodness and God in the midst of it?
Age old struggles cause us to dig deep, to remind ourselves of the core. Age old struggles, fleshed out in new and current experiences, drive us to question, to remember, to explore our core beliefs. I’ve done this over the last couple of weeks. I’ve gone to God with some of the fundamental questions of life, looking for hope and help and guidance. I’ve gone to the bible, trying to find light and direction for the hurt I know so many of us feel.
And the hope I find for when we hurt rests on the foundational things. No… our hope for when we hurt rests on the foundational ONE, our Savior Jesus Christ. When we hurt, we are reminded that there are things too big for us to control or escape. When we hurt, we are reminded that our faith in Jesus Christ is our one unshakeable hope.
I’m inviting us today to come to Jesus.
Come, all who are weary and heavy laden…and he will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). Come, all who are thirsty, come to the waters. You who have no money, come anyway and buy and eat! (Isaiah 55:1).
Come to the one made himself nothing, took the nature of a servant, and humbled himself for our sake. (Philippians 2:7-8). Come to the one who will wipe every tear from our eye and put an end to death and mourning and crying and pain. (Revelation 21:4)
Friends, when we hurt…our hope is to come to Jesus.
I found hope this week in words I wrote 12 years ago:
“Jesus took upon himself our pain, as well as our sin, and in obedience he chose to put our pain to death by offering his own life on the cross. And the encouraging word is that in the resurrection of Jesus, our pain was transformed, our pain was made right, and we were redeemed.”
I wrote those words in one of those light-bulb-idea moments, those epiphanies, those ah-ha’s when you see something so clearly that has always been out in broad daylight, but you had never seen it before. I grew up hearing over and over that Jesus died for my sins. And he did! And his forgiveness for them is sure and complete and the only way we truly experience redemption in our lives.
But 12 years ago, as I read Isaiah 53, I saw something else. Listen to Isaiah 53:2-5:
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering.”
Those words washed over me like a healing balm. They clanged and reverberated in my ears like a victory bell. Our Savior, our Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, picked up and absorbed and bore not just all the bad and wrong and evil things we have done. Jesus immersed himself in all the bad and wrong and evil things that have been done to us. Jesus is “a man of suffering and familiar with pain”, because he entered into it with us, set it on his shoulders, and put it all to death.
Jesus took our physical pain… our arthritis and fibro-myalgia, our cancer and heart disease and back pain. Jesus took our emotional suffering… Jesus actually felt and carried with all the human race all our abuse, all the betrayal and rejection from those we love, all the grief we face when people close to us die… Jesus “took up our pain and bore our suffering” AND PUT IT TO DEATH FOREVER ON THE CROSS!
When we hurt, our hope lies in this truth: Jesus has already carried our hurt on the cross. And God is present with us now; the Holy Spirit is carrying our pain for us right now.
When we hurt, we know we are not alone! When we hurt, we know it will not last! When we hurt, we remember that when God put breath back into Jesus’ lungs in the tomb, our pain as well as our sin was transformed.
It wasn’t erased. Just as the risen Jesus still had holes in his hands, we still bear the marks of our pain. But it does not define us. It does not kill us. “While outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)
We do not lose heart!
We believe in God, a living and active God who is present with us, who has done something about the hurt and the sin in the world, who comforts us and lives with us right in the middle of our pain.
The Apostle Paul reminds of these core truths so many times, and one of those is in the second letter to the Corinthians (1:3-5):
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
Our God, even as we experience hurt, is a God of compassion and all comfort. God delights to comfort us in ALL our troubles.
My invitation is to come to Jesus.
My invitation is to experience God’s presence with you in whatever hurt and pain you are feeling…and to receive from God the comfort that cannot be found anywhere else.
When the hurt has been done to us, Jesus is the answer. When we need comfort because we realize we are the ones who have done the hurting, we are the ones who have done the wrong… Jesus is the answer. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s final solution for the healing AND for the forgiveness that we need.
Come to Jesus for healing. And if it’s needed today, come in repentance as well, asking for forgiveness. Recent events have reminded me to embrace again another core truth: nothing that we do, no matter how heinous…nothing we can do puts us beyond the reach of God’s love and redemption.
Coming to Jesus is the most important invitation I bring today.
Paul goes on to give another invitation after we’ve experienced God’s comfort. We’re also invited to give comfort to those in any trouble. I want to say just a few words about that.
Sometimes God’s comfort and the comfort we bring to others is gentle and loving. For our part, when our hurt is because we have recognized we believe differently than others, comfort can be given by not attacking, by not disparaging others. Comfort can be given by listening to those with whom we differ, giving them the respect of our attention and our attempt to understand.
Sometimes God’s comfort and the comfort we bring to others is different than that. Sometimes comfort is about safety. Sometimes comfort is hard work to create safe space for the vulnerable. To be blunt, creating a safe place for our ministry to children and youth requires people who will give up their time to be with them. It takes more people than it used to decades ago, so we can make sure no child is ever alone with an adult.
It means putting up with the hassle of a check in and check out system, putting up with criminal background checks even though we’ve known you for years. It means carving out the time as a children’s worker to go to the Children’s Ministry Cultivation meetings with Michelle and other teachers and learn our safety policies and share ideas for helping our children experience God’s love. We bring comfort when we make the effort to create a safe place for others.
Sometimes God’s comfort and the comfort we bring to others in community is a challenging comfort, one that is willing to ask the hard questions of each other. This week as a staff, we’ve asked each other if there are any secrets or warning signs that need to be brought to the light…not to shame each other, but so that we each find the freedom of comfort in God’s wholeness and forgiveness. I’m proud of this team I serve with, and I trust them deeply.
If recent events or today’s words are bringing up pain that you have experienced, or bringing the realization that you have caused pain…I encourage you to bring it to Jesus AND to share it with someone safe.
Burying or hiding our pain or our guilt makes things worse. It is better, though not often easy, to face it and bring it to the light. You can share that with one of our pastors or elders or with someone else you trust. Because God’s comfort is also about safety, we may have to share what you say with people who can deal with it appropriately. But we want everyone to live in wholeness and freedom, and we believe it is found only in honestly bringing it to Jesus.
Join me in prayer as we lead into a time of open worship. Pay attention to God’s nudging and leading for how you may need to respond, for what you may need to do today when we hurt. If you need someone to talk and pray with, feel free to come to the front and someone will join you.