Seven Words: FORSAKEN
March 19, 2017
The pain of Jesus' physical death was exceeded only by the emotional darkness experienced on the cross. "My God, my God - why have you forsaken me?" Perhaps you've been there - or are in that place of pain right now. In this season of Lent we bring our own versions of hopeless to the one who promises the gift beyond the grief.
Seven Words: FORSAKEN
● The World Turned Dark
● A God Who Suffers With Us
- 2 Corinthians 5:21
● A Forsaken Invitation
- Psalm 22
See this week’s JOURNALING FORWARD questions for deeper reflection.
The pain of Jesus’ physical death was exceeded only by the emotional darkness experienced on the cross. “My God, my God – why have you forsaken me?" Perhaps you’ve been there – or are in that place of pain right now. In this season of Lent we bring our own versions of hopeless to the one who promises the gift beyond the grief.
Daily devotionals that accompany each day's reading are also available on Facebook. They are created by a great Ginghamsburg unpaid servant team. You do not have to be a Facebook user to access them. View them here. When the page opens, click the date under NOTES (on the left hand side) to access the full document.
MONDAY: Matthew 26:16
Do you remember a time you denied knowing Jesus? Knowing what you’d like to say ahead of time could help when the situation arises. Take time to write down who Jesus is to you - and how it is you are able to trust him with your life.
TUESDAY: John 13:26-30
Did you grow up with the feeling of love no matter what, or did it feel as though you had to act a certain way to receive love? Write about that, and open yourself to God’s unconditional grace and love.
WEDNESDAY: Matthew 27:1-10
Describe a time you failed and felt there was no return. How did you move forward? How might that story help someone else who needs to hear that Jesus offers empowerment to let it go?
THURSDAY: Luke 4:14-30
Describe a time you felt the pain of rejection. If the hurt still stings, make a list of people you could reach out to, helping you move forward with confidence.
FRIDAY: Psalm 22:6
Have you ever felt beaten down, unable to reach out for help? Is that going on right now? Picture Jesus lifting you out of that dark pit. Wherever you are in faith describe how your life will look when Jesus lifts you out of the pit.
SATURDAY: Mark 15:34
Describe a time you felt anxious or depressed. How did you experience God’s presence? Identify someone who needs you to be that loving friend or supportive mentor. Begin by writing a prayer on his or her behalf.
SUNDAY: John 19:28 Describe a time you were tempted to quit - or possibly did quit. What did you learn? Ask God to give you a heart of perseverance - for your good and God’s glory.
To download a copy of the Lenten journal click here.
Read the Daily Reflection post at facebook.com/ginghamsburg.
When the page opens, click the date under NOTES (on the left hand side) to access the full document.
Seven Words: Forsaken
Pastor Chris Heckaman
As our worship team has been working through Lent each week, we have truly struggled. Lent in many ways is just not fun. Looking deeper, exploring our darkness, making our way to the cross?
It’s kind of like going to the dentist, or writing up your will. Something you feel like you have to do but it’s just not fun to think about. Like taking your kids to get their vaccinations, or taking your trash out in the cold. Painful in all sorts of ways or just plain drudgery.
In the church world, it’s traditional to give up stuff this time of year. So if its coffee, half of us are walking around angry and extra irritable. I gave up meat for Lent, everything but some fish. Holy cow, I’m hungry all the time. I’ve become a connoisseur of canned tuna though. I found out there’s some tuna I don’t like. And some tuna I REALLY don’t like. There’s only so many beans a man should eat in one day.
Lent is though above all a holy season. Holy and hard, all at the same time. We get to focus on things we never would think about unless we were forced to.
NO ONE likes to face the harsh realities of life, but unless we do, we’ll squander some of the most beautiful gifts life has to offer… I invite you to listen to these words from Matthew 27…opening out onto a scene from Jesus’ hanging on a cross…
45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink.
The World Turned Dark
“From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.”
Time stood still. At the worst MOMENT in time.
Scientists have offered a myriad of explanations.
Did the sun stand still? It seemed like it.
Picture a violent storm and watching the sky turn awful shades of black.
Ever have a day, week, or year marked by THAT kind of darkness? The noon till 3 pitch black?
Darkness comes over ALL your land.
I will NEVER forget walking into a Dayton Children’s Hospital trauma room accompanying the father of an eight-year-old boy who lay bandaged from head to toe on a hospital gurney. The young boy had just lost his battle for life in a tragic, automobile accident. Pitch black darkness swooped in fierce. FORSAKEN.
I will ALSO never forget the day I found myself praying head down in a small waiting room for my own 9-month old nephew and God-child, little Nate, who was dying of spinal meningitis. His father and mother, my wife Lisa’s brother and wife, had just lost another child a couple years before that. Her brother knew death all too well, having performed CPR on his own Dad -- gone at the age of 42. Sitting in that hospital waiting room, praying for the fever stricken baby, life seemed so unfair, cold, and distant from any God. I was mad at God. #### it God, I prayed. Pitch black. FORSAKEN.
Sisters and brothers, life can get REALLY, REALLY, REALLY dark. THAT’S WHEN WE HEAR THE cry of Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” Many in our world know all too well. “My God, My God, why?”
“Where are you God? Why have you abandoned me?” It doesn’t make sense. We never saw it coming. Not one of my loves. Not my life.
“With friends like You who needs enemies, God?” “I thought you loved me.”
Here we find God allowing the crucifixion and violent death of His Own Son.
Those standing by watching the spectacle thought Jesus was crying out to Elijah WHO WAS KNOWN AS THE PATRON SAINT OF ALL CAUGHT IN DEEP TROUBLE - “Eli, Eli, the first two syllables of El-i-jah.
Someone ran and got a sponge and dipped it in some nearby wine-vinegar and gave it to Jesus. Have you ever tasted wine vinegar? Put it on a salad yes, but drink it? It was the drink of commoners and Roman soldiers in that day. The fact that they put it on a sponge is real interesting. Roman soldiers used sponges to clean themselves off when they went to the bathroom. It was what they used before toilet paper. Talk about an act of betrayal. The darkness had closed ALL THE WAY IN
YOU know the feeling…
“I thought life was supposed to get easier after I turned my life over God.”
“You were supposed to help me God, weren’t you?”
“You said you’d be on my side, and bless me, right?”
“If I live right, and am a little generous, serving others here and there, and I follow your commandments, you kind of owe me God, don’t you???”
Evidently not. God’s own Son was abandoned.
Disowned – A NOON TIL THREE, PITCH BLACK FORSAKEN.
AND YET THERE’S MORE.
A GOD WHO SUFFERS WITH US
Tradition has it that God turned God’s back on Jesus because that’s when the sin of the world was LITERALLY HANGING ON Jesus as he was hanging on the cross. And God, who is holy, couldn’t have anything to do with sin, so God the Father broke relationship with God’s Son.
II Corinthians 5:21 in The Message in fact states… “God put the wrong on Him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.”
That’s a part of it…but that’s not ALL of it. THANK GOD THAT’S NOT ALL OF IT.
It wasn’t just God’s Son on the cross…GODSELF was on the cross. Jesus was God in the flesh. God wasn’t allowing SOMEBODY ELSE to get crucified. God was allowing GOD to be crucified.
Rather than being a calloused bystander, God is running TOWARDS the pain and putting God’s very own Self right into the middle of the worst of it all. …As the One most FORSAKEN.
This may blow your mind. Might be the first time you ever thought the thought… Of all the terms and titles used for God in the Bible…Almighty God, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and so many others…Jesus’ death on the cross reveals God as “Suffering God.” The God who loves, provides, and…suffers. “Suffering God.”
The most renowned scholars have struggled to put words to this mystery. Jurgen Moltmann chronicles some of the views in his book The Trinity and the Kingdom…
“God suffers with us – God suffers from us – God suffers for us: it is THIS experience of God that reveals God.”
“All ‘suffering [therefore] is divine suffering.’”
In the midst of our pitch black, God’s suffering meets the worst of our suffering.
God isn’t in our pocket. We can’t call upon Him like some Jeanie IN A BOTTLE. God is on the cross.
On the screen is one of my favorite, yet most tragic of pictures, the Father of Anne Frank, Otto. Picked it up at Anne Frank’s house, now a museum in Amsterdam.
Otto Frank was a renowned businessman who did everything in his power to help his family escape and survive the Holocaust. Had his business remodeled to include secret rooms and hiding places. They were able to hide for close to two years until an informant likely turned them in. All were sent to Auschwitz. His wife, 2 daughters, and friends were all killed. He was the only one who survived. This picture was taken the day he returned to the home that they’d all shared for the first time after the tragedy.
It shows a father’s deep, pitch-black pain, agony and sorrow. His face carries all the “why God’s” and “what for’s”? FORSAKEN.
God isn’t standing on the outside, looking in on us AS we suffer, God runs right to the center of the worst pain and tragedy living and feeling all the abandonment and agony with us.
A Forsaken Invitation
Here is the most radical thought yet though, If God is smack dab in the middle of our pain and suffering, it also means our healing awaits us, right there, smack dab in the middle of our pain and suffering as well.
The cry was originally a quote from the first line of a Psalm, Psalm 22.
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
One of the most primal prayers of all time…but it’s still a prayer.
Psalm 22 is known as the Psalm of the Righteous Sufferer, written a thousand years before Jesus ever hung on anything.
People have been suffering unjustly for years, righteous people, underserving people.
Inherent in OUR CRY is OUR INVITATION.
Let’s break this down even more fully, forsake, “for…sake.”
Literally “for” a “purpose,” or a sake.
As in, “for God’s sake” or “For goodness’ sake.”
To seek for, to seek for something, to seek for a new purpose.
It doesn’t mean the actual suffering has a pre-determined purpose.
But it does mean our most painful suffering does hold within it a new INVITATION, a new hope, a new possibility.
When we are forsaken, abandoned, or scorned, as painful as it might feel and be, we are now free to run to a new, a new purpose, even a new destiny.
A new way of looking at life.
A new way of looking at God.
A new list of priorities.
A new circle of friends.
A new view of ourselves and
A new understanding of our own purpose and call in this world.
OUR MOST PROFOUND LIFE PURPOSE IS FORGED OUT OF OUR FORSAKEN.
When we bottom out, we are FORCED to start looking up.
What did the father of the eight-year-old boy do when he went home from that hospital? He got up every next morning. That’s a big win. At first there were some days he didn’t leave his house, but he soon volunteered to serve God by mowing his church’s lawn. He did as good of a job as it could have been done. It looked like we worshipped on a golf course. He served with excellence. He would also bring candy for my son, and give him rides on his mowing tractor.
Lisa’s brother and wife? Lisa knew her brother was going to be Ok when they all sat down to dinner for the first time back in their home without their little boy, and Scott says, “Let’s pray,” and has everyone hold their hands, and begins, “Dear God, you know what it is like to lose a Son…”
You know where they are now every week? In worship at their church. Giving the pain and suffering back to God isn’t a once in a life time moment, it’s still a weekly - sometimes daily practice. As well as living with all the questions. Questions don’t always go away either.
What about you? Have you had your forsaken moment?
A time you felt completely and utterly alone?
Perhaps it was a ways back – yet questions persist.
Perhaps some of you are going through that time and pain right now.
In your bulletin is a piece of paper set aside just for you, to write down YOUR GRIEF OR PAIN
What is it that you carry or have carried and need to say to God, you are committed to being a person of the cross? A person who understands that pain is part of the spiritual journey – and you trust God daily for your healing, for God’s gifts to show up.
Take a few moments to write it down…
Once you’ve written what is needed, crush it up in your hand, to symbolize how it has crushed and crumbled you…
Now, open it back up, that’s part of the process too, learning to open back up to God, others, and life…
Oh the paper will still be crumpled, that’s what we are, just crumpled messes, but now opening ourselves up to God.
When you come forward for communion, bring your crumpled mess and give it to God. We’ll collect them later and place them at the cross.
Nothing is lost…even our forsakenness.
God can do the redeeming because God knows also knows the suffering.
The One broken like bread and poured out like a cup knows and is with you.
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