It was almost a full week early. We sang “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna!” with palm branches waving. We heard about the triumphal entry of the Christ into Jerusalem. And, as is our custom, we turned those palm fronds into crosses as we turned our hearts and minds to the crucifixion for the rest of the worship. Too many Christians attend church on Palm Sunday to shouts of “Hosanna!” and then come back on Easter morning to shouts of “He is Risen!” but never hear the shouts of “Crucify!”
So…we went there. We went to the cross. We went to the shouts of “Eloi, Eloi, Lama sabachthani.” And, as we went there, we spoke of how Jesus is our “Man of sorrows” and “acquainted with grief” (Isaiah). He enters into our pain to reconcile and make new and take all of the great sadness in himself. And God is found there in the suffering. God is found in the darkness. God is found in the night.
Elie Wiesel, in his book, Night, puts it this way:
The SS hung two Jewish men and a boy before the assembled inhabitants of the camp. The men died quickly but the death struggle of the boy lasted half an hour. “Where is God? Where is he?” a man behind me asked. As the boy, after a long time, was still in agony on the rope, I heard the man cry again, “Where is God now?” and I heard a voice within me answer, “Here he is – he is hanging here on this gallows…”
This was our Sunday message.
And then it happened….
There were text messages.
There was a phone call.
Someone was scared, suffering, sad. It was a health crisis. I can’t get into more details here. The name will remain private. The details will remain confidential.
But, God entered into this and brought, I think, some peace… I think, some comfort… I think, bringing some semblance of wholeness and healing while letting the person in question know that God had indeed entered this situation with them. They were not alone on that cross.
The early service “crowd” got the one who was struggling on the phone. We called and sang “On Eagle’s Wings” with them on an iPhone. That song has a special place in the life of our congregation. It has been sung outside in the snow on Easter Sunday. It has been sung on the new church floor even before there were walls around it. It has been sung in hospital rooms. It has been sung on deathbeds. It has been sung at memorial services. It is a testimony to God.
Through that one phone call, our church, represented by that small 8:30 AM crowd, joined the person on the phone…on their cross. We entered it with them. We suffered alongside them…as best we could.
This concern was lifted up again at the 10 AM service, where there were a whole lot more people. I had to be very careful not to say too much (as I’m doing here). But there was a weight in the room. There was a heaviness. There were some tears as people could tell from my voice that this was a concern.
And, together, we entered into the suffering. Together we got up on the gallows. Together we got up on the cross.
2 Corinthians 5:19 says:
in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
This is not a matter of counting trespasses, but is surely entrusting reconciliation to us. On Sunday, Girdwood Chapel entered into the brokenness of someone we know and love and was offering Christ.
Let’s face it. Brokenness is a part of our lives. Every single one of us has fault, failures, foibles, and pain. We have all gone astray and suffer in our own way. There’s a country song that says, “I’m not broken, just badly bent.” But we know that’s not entirely true. We are in need of repair.
This is what Christ does for us on the cross as he makes us “at-one” with God.
This is what Girdwood Chapel embodied on Palm Sunday 2012.