I had the opportunity to preach at Crossfire (our contemporary worship service) Wednesday evening.
Here's the sermon....and then a few thoughts that I have had since....
16th Sunday after Pentecost
Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
There is just something about Peter, isn’t there? It often seems to me that he is the disciple that I most often connect with. Maybe it’s his humanity…or his ability in one moment to see Jesus clearly for who he is….the Messiah….and in the next moment, try to make that Messiah fit his mold.
Because try as I might, I can see God at work in our world, I can show others where God is working, but in the same breath, I can wonder why God is doing what God is doing, or should I say, be disappointed in the way in which God is at work.
It’s easy to have expectations of God, isn’t it? Just like Peter did. Yes we know of God’s all-embracing love and grace for the world, but we want it according to our specifications, our expectations, our needs. Yes, just like Peter, we have a hard time coming to terms with the Jesus we want and the Jesus we need.
You see, we can connect with Peter’s strong reaction to Jesus’ prediction of his fate: He simple cannot imagine that the Messiah will suffer, let alone be killed. His shock is so great, that he can’t even hear the part about rising on the third day…all Peter can hear is the word….that the Messiah…the one who has come to save us….will be killed, so he protests and is rebuked.
Who’s to say that we don’t feel that way, too? When we voice our disappointments with God? We think that it’s wrong to doubt God….and that we are wrong when we do doubt God. Some of us may have even been taught that it is wrong to voice those disappointments or those frustrations.
Peter’s reaction is a natural one. When faced with the idea and hearing the words, that the Messiah would be put to death, he did not want to hear it. He wanted it not to be true….and he tells Jesus this.
Would we, or could we have acted any differently? To hear about the God of heaven and earth, who was sent to save Israel and the world by dying on a cross? No way! Can’t be true. God wouldn’t do that.
We don’t want a God, a Messiah, a savior who will rise from the dead. We want one that doesn’t die in the first place.
We still, as sinful human beings, crave and want a God to be alive and active in our lives that fits into our needs and definitions. We still, to this day, struggle with understanding a God who comes to us in the weakest and murkiest of places….and one whose power is seen in dying on a cross.
It is a struggle we face every day….especially when things aren’t going the way we think they should. When we learn that a brother of Christ takes ill in Alaska and he and his wife are so far away from friends and family, it is okay to ask God why this is happening….when we experience breakdowns in families that sometimes end in broken homes….when we lose a job….when a career takes us far from those whom we love….when a child is harmed on the sports field….or any other number of disappointments. When things don’t meet our expectations, there will be disappointment. In life, with people around us….and with God. And that’s okay.
What I’d like us to do now is take a moment to wrestle, if you will, with those disappointments. Take a slip of paper and write down a time when you’ve been disappointed with God….upset with God….maybe even let down by God.
We will not be sharing these aloud…and there is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed….it’s okay to express your disappointment.
So take a few minutes to think about that time and to jot it down…..
(If you're reading this online....I invite you to pause and think of a disappointment and write it down.)
As you think about that time, remember that God can hear and can take your disappointment. And remember, too, that God has promised to meet you in those disappointments and stay with you until you and all of us….until we come out onto the other side of disappointment to resurrected faith.
Some days we’re walking in the light and promise of the resurrection….and other days that promise seems beyond our grasp. So until that day, when we all walk in that resurrection light, let me say this, that the pastoral staff here will be praying for you, supporting you….and giving thanks for you in our prayers.
Because that’s who we are as the Body of Christ….we are community. So often when disappointment sets in, we alienate ourselves….we remove ourselves from community and turn in on ourselves. Yet it is through this community that God is at work. It is in this community of faith that we are loved, encouraged, supported, held up, and not ever let go.
So as we wrap up this time in our service….I invite you to fold up your paper, write your name on it and come forward, place it in the basket, and we will circle around the basket in prayer together.
At the end of the service, if you wish to take your slip of paper home with you, you may….if you wish you may leave them in the basket and the Vicar and myself will lift up your disappointments in our prayers this week. Anything shared with us will remain confidential.
Come, let’s pray.
That was the end of the sermon as we circled around the basket and we prayed about our disappointments and other concerns in our hearts that night.
As worship continued, there were times of smiles and times of tears, times of joyous singing and times of silence. The sanctuary was a holy place last night.
I was reminded of that holiness this morning as I sat at my desk and opened my day in prayer as I opened the folded pieces of paper in the basket. As I lift up those names in prayer this week, I pray for others in our community as well, for the struggles and disappointments that people are facing each day. May each of us be reminded that it's okay to be disappointed and that God is in the midst of the disappointment all the time....
If you have disappointments you wish to share in a prayerful way, please leave me a message, email me at church, or leave a note in my office.
Holding you in prayer....