everything

Everything should be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14 CEB)

Recent, tragic events within my extended family have freshly impressed on me the value of these words and our desperate need to see them lived out.

We never know the full extent and total weight of the load the person in front of us is carrying. We’re aware of only what they allow us to see and whether due to raising, reason, or resistance, many are adept at concealing their burdens. On the outside they might even leave the impression with you that everything is just fine, while all the while on the inside they are slowly, but surely shrinking in spirit each day.

Consequently, we never know just how close to the edge are any of those with whom we deal daily. For some, only a slight insensitivity or carelessness could very well prove to be the tipping point for them into an abyss of despair, drama, or even death. This world is a cold, hard place and though each of us has our own unique set of burdens, each of us remains ever hungry for the same thing.

Love.

Not just any love mind you, but love that shows itself in genuine consideration and courtesy, true gentleness and kindness, real regard and respect.

It matters not who the person in front of you is or what they do. They could be your family or a friend, a stranger or an enemy, a neighbor or an alien. But they all have this need in common with you. To be loved and to be treated with love.

And from whom will they receive such love? In what ways will it come to them? Through whom and when?

What this world needs now is love, sweet love. And you, in each and every moment with each and every person, can be used by God in the giving of it.

Everything should be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14 CEB)

We need to pray.

Father God, stir my heart to care for all of your children as I would have you care for me. As you bring into the presence of others each day, may your way of love go with me and joyfully, fully, go out from me. Amen.

the fourth word

From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. At about three Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?’” (Matthew 27:45-46 CEB)

But my church doesn’t do that well in the dark. “I’m at a happy church, unfortunately,” said a woman in my hearing. A “happy church?”

“Yep,” she explained. “Everything is so happy and upbeat. The preacher jumps up on stage at the beginning of the service, just grinning and giggling. Looks like he may be on some kind of drug, he’s so unbearably, insufferably happy. Every other word from him is “awesome!” “Wasn’t that an awesome song?” “Isn’t our praise band just awesome!” All the music is upbeat and giddy. It’s hell to be going through a tough time in your life and be forced to worship at a happy church.”

She reminded me of my last visit to an incurably “happy church.” After the service, as we were all just grinning and swinging our sunny way out into the parking lot, I had to ask the pastor, “Is there no one here today with cancer? No one whose marriage is failing?”

Like I said, my church doesn’t do all that well in the dark.

What words, what terrible, frightening words, this middle, dark word from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This is the word that sets all the other words from the cross in context. This is the word that holds together all the rest, the word that uncovers the scandal of the words.… The fourth word could not have been the first word. If it had been, I doubt we would’ve stayed for the other six. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

And yet curiously, these searing words are words of hope. In the course of my life – in times of darkness and despair, when it has been my turn to walk the valley, true, a valley not as dark as the one that Jesus walked on Good Friday, but still dark – I may have blurted out some anguished words to God, but nothing I have said is as accusing, as angry, or is anguished as this: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

To hear these words upon the lips of Jesus, to have these words here, is a great … comfort. …

Most of my prayers are, “God give me this, God grant me that. God deliver me, preserve me, rescue, save me.” Jesus did not ask the Father for deliverance but for presence. Jesus’ nearly last prayer was, “God, where are you?” …

Truly Christian prayer is, at its best, the honest prayer, “God, preserve me from trying to get you to run the world on my terms. Save me from trying to get my life to work out the way I want. Bend me to pray like Jesus, ‘Not my will, but thine, be done.’”

William Willimon, Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words of the Cross, pp.39-40,43-44