I hope your church where you go regularly is an amazing place. Not because of it’s programs or fancy music or power point. Not because of the coffee bar or whatever else your church might do. I hope it’s amazing because when you go to church you find yourself thinking new thoughts, you are challenged to live out genuine humility within the body of Christ, you are led into worship in a way that is life changing.
My family and I regularly have the privilege of sitting under great teaching and preaching. Not great because it’s flashy or funny. Great because I’m challenged to make connections between the old testament and the new like I haven’t in the past, or great because I think new thoughts, receive new truth after years of listening to sermons often on the very same scriptures.
I attend a small church. We meet in a community center downtown. Usually it’s probably around 35 people. We’re actually kind of fortunate to have enough people with musical talent that we even have two ‘worship teams’ which I think is awesome. I think it’s healthier for everybody when the same people aren’t on stage every week.
This morning was my week off. I was sitting in front of two lovely young ladies. (Probably age 6 and 4) Those girls were singing their lungs out. It was one of the most worshipful things to experience. Absolutely beautiful.
This morning our prayer time was led by a man who I think tries to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and has the courage to change plans in accordance with that guidance. So today during our normal corporate prayer time…instead we prayed with one other person by us and were asked to really be humble and share a struggle we’re having…not the kind of thing that you would normally share…”Oh…I have a cold.” But more like a sin struggle going on. He made the point that if we are to really be a body we have to come to a place where we can share the real stuff going on deeper within and pray for one another. I’m thankful that we went that direction. It was a God moment between me and my daughter.
This morning our pastor preached from Lamentations 4. I encourage you to go check it out. It has got to be one of the most bizarre, horrendous chapters in the entire bible. The person reading it read it and then the pastor came up and literally said “That was uplifting wasn’t it!” Because it was so obvious that it was terrible.
But as I knew would happen our pastor somehow through his gifting and the presence of God wove in and out of the book and that chapter specifically and made it into a clear message.
To sum up…
1. The people were so desperate in their exile that they came to a place where they were forced to eat their own dead because they themselves were starving to death. They were being held under siege so no food could come in. The most horrific of circumstances. I’ve heard of this kind of thing before when people have been stranded on a mountain in feet of snow, but never a whole city. 400 days. That’s a long time and a brutal way for their enemies to force them to absolute desperation.
2. The people had just been told that God loves them and will be faithful in chapter 3. (Think Great is Thy Faithfulness)
3. The people in chapter 4 just dumped the whole truck load of horror that they had been living through. It’s horrendous. Worse than anything we’ve faced. Honestly…I don’t know too many if any people who have faced the kind of desperation they faced.
4. Their prophets, priests, kings had failed them.
5. They were left to simply wait and wait and wait.
6. From Lamentations up through Jesus’ birth they were waiting…read A LONG TIME!
7. Jesus came to be our prophet, priest and king.
8. Jesus enters their most horrific memories by saying at the last supper…”Eat my flesh and drink my blood” when he introduces communion. He takes on their very worst pain and grief and horror.
(Made me think of communion in a whole new way today.)
9. Jesus dies. And then the waiting begins…3 days.
10. Jesus completely enters the people’s worst nightmare and takes it upon himself.
I wish you could’ve heard my pastor this morning because it’s really hard for me to put into words exactly how profound this whole message was…
Sometimes in our grief we are left waiting…for what feels like a long time. Our pastor used the example of a hospital room and what it feels like to be in that situation for a long period of time.
I did an immediate flashback. You wouldn’t think it would be a big deal but it is. When you’re in a hospital for a long time days just kind of go one right after another with nothing to keep them apart. You feel separated from the world and it feels like everybody else is moving forward and you’re not. Just getting a breath of fresh air becomes critical.
I have never experienced the kind of horror that the people did in Lamentations 4. I haven’t been exiled for centuries. I’ve actually had a relatively smooth life all things considered.
But today I see more clearly that when we do experience horrific conditions in our life…abuse, death, sickness, losses of huge proportion….God is nearest when we are in those times. Jesus came to enter our horrific moments and memories.
We were encouraged to go through and pray over everything specifically…the sin in our lives, one by one, the horrific stuff one moment by moment as they did in Lamentations 4.
Our pastor quoted today “Prayer is leading every sorrow to the source of healing.”
All of us are still in some form of waiting even today. Yes Jesus has come and died for us. Yes we can be forgiven. But our exile…will not be over until we reach the other side.
Sometimes I take communion for granted. It’s easy to take it mindlessly. I’m not proud of this. But when I think about Jesus saying “eat my flesh and drink my blood” and the reality that what He’s saying is in that horrific memory you have I’m going there for you, I’m in awe.
Your grief might not involve eating your own children. In fact…I’m quite sure it doesn’t. But you do have grief. I have grief. You have surely experienced some horrific stuff in your lifetime or somewhere in your family line. We all have. Rather than us just ignoring it or sweeping it under the rug, rather than us just pretending it didn’t happen or being hush, hush about it…maybe we need to just speak it, write it, get it out in horrific detail one thing at a time and ask Jesus to enter in.
Oh how I hope you go to a church that leaves you thinking and processing, pondering and reflecting and changes your actual life. I hope you are led by people who study the Word of God and teach and preach it in ways that are inspired. If you don’t…you need to. If you live in the area I would love to see you at my church.