Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Sometimes the Most Horrible Thing Can Become the Most Grace-filled!

This is adapted from my Easter Sermon.

John 20:1-18  Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. (more)

Through the season of Lent, my sermons focused on various persons who Encountered Jesus and how their lives were changed because of him.

During Holy Week, we looked two of the disciples, Peter and Judas. What I found so interesting was how much alike and yet how different the stories of Peter and Judas are.

Both Peter and Judas "fail" Jesus in some way. Peter denied even knowing Jesus while Judas betrayed Jesus. Both needed Jesus' forgiveness, but only Peter received it.

Once Judas was filled with remorse over his betrayal, he saw things as so broken that they couldn't be fixed. He was overwhelmed by his despair and he took his own life.

Judas must have underestimated the power and mercy of God to transform the brokenness of his life- to redeem the mess he had made of it. If only he had stuck around until that first Easter morning, he would have seen the great power of God to bring wholeness out of brokenness, hope out of despair, and life out of death!

For many of us, there are things in our life that seem to be broken beyond repair: hopes, careers, families, marriages. There are places in our lives that feel barren and beyond God's help. For some of us this is about the grief we feel over the loss of a loved one. For others of us, it's about the loss of our dreams. For others, it's the loss of health or wealth, or the loss of a relationship.

Hear the Good News:

God has brought wholeness out of brokenness
that which seemed lost has been restored to new life.

That part of our lives that is filled with the most pain and hurt can be transformed by God's grace and given new life.

Sometimes with God, the thing that is the most horrible can also be the most grace-filled!!

The Cross was probably the most horrible thing that we could imagine and yet, God used the Cross to redeem the world.

There are many things in our lives that are painful.  We suffer for a variety of reasons, and the truth is that suffering is just a part of our lives.

How  much easier our lives would be if there was no pain--no suffering.  Many of us attempt to live our lives without the pain--we wall parts of ourselves off,
we shut ourselves up,so that we can try to stop the pain.

Hear the Good News:
No pain is greater than God's love!!
God's grace is greater than any pain that we can experience.

God didn't make Good Friday and the pain of the crucifixion "go away,"but by God's Grace Jesus endured the cross. We have to go through the pain of Good Friday, in order to truly experience the JOY of Easter.

God does not remove pain and suffering from our lives. Rather, our pain can become redemptive if we allow God's grace to be at work in our hearts and in our lives.

When God's grace is at work redeeming us:
The most horrible thing 
can become the most grace-filled  part of our lives.

Henri Nouwen is one of my favorite teachers. 
His book, With Burning Hearts is a book that has meant a great deal in my spiritual life. I read that book not too long after my mother died about 20 years ago. In it, Nouwen talks about how we can meet the losses in our lives. we can meet them in one of two ways: Either with resentment

OR with gratitude.

We have a choice.

We can wall ourselves off and avoid the pain.
We can resent the events that have brought us pain.
We can be angry at God and nurse our hurt feelings that life has somehow been unfair to us.
We can make that choice


We can choose to be grateful for God's grace.
For God's grace is at work even in the worst of circumstances.
We can walk through the valley knowing that God's grace can TRANSFORM us as we can learn to TRUST God.

We have a choice.

Roberta Bondi is another one of my favorite Christian writers and teachers. In her book  Memories of Godshe writes about the power and meaning of the Cross and some conclusions she reaches.  She lists three things the Cross is about:

1. restoring the image of God
2. destroying the power of death
      ( and therefore our FEAR of suffering)
3. teaching us again the way to love

When I first read Bondi's book, I was struggling greatly with my grief over my mother's death. I knew that this tremendous grief had changed me. I was not the same person after she died. And for about 3- 4 years following her death, I kept praying that God would help me to get my old self back. I wanted to be the happy person I had always been

Yet, what I came to understand was that what I needed
was not about  getting  "my old self" back.  I did NOT need to be restored to who I was before.  I wanted to be "the me" who existed before the grief, before the suffering. BUT, this is NOT what God wanted for me.

I don't believe that this is what God wants for any of us.
God's grace doesn't "put it back like it was," but,
through the power of the Resurrection, God's grace transforms us.

When Mary went to the Garden on that first Easter morning, she was looking for the Jesus she once knew
the man whose face she surely would recognize in any crowd. And yet, here he was standing in front of her
and she did not recognize the Resurrected Christ!

The good news of Good Friday and Easter  is this:
We do not get "our old selves" back!
Our pain is NOT taken away!
Our pain, our grief, our sufferings can be transformed because of the Grace that comes to us through the power of the Resurrection

The most horrible thing
can be the most grace-filled

God doesn't remove pain from our lives. Pain and suffering are a part of life. Jesus didn't come down off the cross. Rather his suffering on the cross is transformed by his resurrection!

Our lives:our pain, our grief, our sufferings
can be transformed by the power of the Resurrection!

We can be made NEW CREATURES in Christ.
And just as Christ still bore his wounds, we too, may be scarred by the sufferings we have endured. But, God's grace will carry us through the pain and grief and suffering. And just as Jesus called Mary by Name,
God calls each of us by name.

And God grants to us New Life--not our "old selves!
God continually refines us by the power of the crucifixion and resurrection.

God's Grace can make the most horrible thing
the most grace-filled thing.

Praise be to God who has given us the Victory in Jesus Christ.

If God could raise Jesus from the dead, what do we suffer through  that is beyond  God's redemption?


When we share in the Eucharist together, we are reminded of Christ's suffering and we share in Christ's brokenness. We share in his body and blood which were laid down for each of us.

My prayer is that this Easter Season, you may know yourself laying down your own sufferings, your griefs, and your pain. 

My you come to an attitude of gratitude knowing that you are not alone. Everyone has sadness, pain and suffering.
And through through the Power of the Resurrected Christ, your sufferings may be redeemed!

The most horrible thing
can be the more grace-filled!

Praise be to God!

Christ is Risen!

No comments: