O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Why Have You Forsaken Me?
Why Have You Forsaken Me?
Preached on February 24, 2016
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PASTOR: Of all the prayers Jesus ever prayed--not only during his Holy Passion, but in all the years leading up to it--and he prayed often ... and fervently ... about many concerns in many circumstances ... this is the One prayer of His - that went unanswered.
That is something you and I cannot really understand, because it is something that has never happened to us--NEVER! We have never been absolutely forsaken by our God.
Although it certainly may seem that way at times ...
SANDRA: It's such a funny sounding word. Almost comical. Spoken out of context you'd expect it to be the punchline of a joke. Like "TCA"--a three character acronym that stands for "three character acronym."
Such a funny sounding word. "SIDS." Almost comical. Until you hear what it stands for--"Sudden Infant Death Syndrome." Until you EXPERIENCE what it stands for--"Sudden Infant Death Syndrome."
I had expected her to wake up earlier. She usually did. I would hear some stirring coming from her crib. She would gurgle and coo ... talking, we joked, to the tiny stuffed bears that hung, suspended, from the mobile above her head. I always had the impression that she enjoyed that time alone--that she regretted the mornings I would rush in and interrupt her.
Then, after she'd had enough chit-chat with the bears she'd send out one small screech--a little warning "yawp" to let me know that she was ready for me, now. If I wasn't quick to respond--drowsing in bed, sneaking an early morning shower--she would fire a few more verbal volleys before breaking into a full-throated bawl.
But on that particular morning there was silence. So, I happily helped myself to a second cup of coffee and thanked God for the tiny blessing of a soundly sleeping baby.
When I saw her, turned on her stomach, I was actually excited. "Such a big girl," I said aloud. "You've learned to flip over."
She didn't stir.
"And such a sound night's sleep." I added.
She didn't stir ... at all.
When I looked to see the color drained from her cheek; when I placed my hand on her cold, bald head; when I gathered my precious little girl--my sweet little baby--into my arms ...
... I have never ... ever ... felt so alone.
The certificate of her death reads "SIDS." Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
We are not built to bury our own children.
PASTOR: Although it certainly may seem that way at times--and there are times, like those experienced by this young mother, when it certainly does seem that way--we have never been absolutely forsaken by our God.
Oh, we may use a term like "God-forsaken"--perhaps to describe a bleak landscape, or a seemingly helpless situation--but it isn't really true, is it? Not really, absolutely, utterly forsaken by God.
Many centuries before the Son took on our flesh, the author of Psalm 22 was the first to pray, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" ...but by the end of the psalm, he realized that God was very much present, and even expressed faith in God's future activity--no matter how bad his circumstances were, and no matter how "God-forsaken" this psalmist must have felt. "Don't leave me," the psalmist prayed to God ... but then countered: "Of course, you never have. From the time I was born you have been there, and for as far back as my people can remember." For the psalmist, being "God-forsaken" was merely a metaphor--a powerful one, to be sure, expressing just how desperate he felt--but not literally true.
For Mary it most likely felt true ... it most likely felt LITERALLY true.
PHYLLIS: We are not built to bury our own children.
PASTOR: That is Mary, the Mother of our Lord.
PHYLLIS: We are not built to bury our own children. That thought kept wandering through my mind as I saw my son suspended above me ... hanging from his cross.
I had never felt so far from God. Not since the day the Lord's angel, Gabriel, had surprised me in tiny Nazareth--surprised me with the impossible news of my son's birth.
"Nothing is impossible with God," the angel had said. And from that moment I knew it was true. "Let it be done to me as you have said," I exclaimed. For I knew it was so! I knew God was with me ... not just WITH me, but withIN me--growing for those long nine months within my womb.
He was always with me--my Lord ... my SON. Oh, there was that incident in Jerusalem when he was twelve. Joseph and I, assuming he was with our group of travelers, had left him in Jerusalem. Terrified to find him missing, we searched the city for three days until we found him in the Temple. "Didn't you know," he asked us, "that I would be in my Father's house?" He had been there all along.
He had certainly been there FOR ME all along. When we attended the wedding of friends in the village of Cana ... when they had horribly miscalculated the wine requirements ... he was there. I asked for help ... and he was there.
I could hardly imagine life without him, my son ... my Lord ... so close at hand ....
Until the day he hung suspended before me on that cross ... my baby's fragile life slipping away.
"My God," he cried. "My God, why have you forsaken me?"
And I could feel the same question welling up within my own breast. "Why God? Why have you forsaken ME?" We are not built to bury our own children!
But I held my tongue. For a hand reached out to me. A hand took mine, holding it tight. An arm reached across my shoulder and held me ... comforted me.
It was John. The young man my son ... my Lord ... had taken into his confidence ... had taken into his heart.
It was John. The young man my son ... my Lord ... had given to ME.
"Woman," he had said not too many minutes before, gazing down upon me from his cross. "Woman, look upon your son."
"Son," he had said to John, "look into the face of your mother."
He had given us to one another.
And when John took my hand ... took my heart ... in that most God-forsaken moment of my life ... the loneliness fell away.
He had given us to one another. And even at the foot of his cross, as my son ... my Lord ... drifted toward death--even there I knew God was with me!
That day I buried my child--something I was not built to do. But I did so with my son, John, at my side. I did so with my Lord in my heart.
PASTOR: Even for Mary, it seems--even at her most “God-forsaken” moment--God was in fact with her ... caring for her ... comforting her ... in the person of John. No, even though we may describe our feelings this way, even though we might use this metaphor to express our deep doubt and despair - it is never literally true.
And here’s the thing. For Jesus - it was true! For us and for our salvation, Jesus was damned. And the definition of damnation is to be utterly separated from God. Completely. Absolutely … It is a pain that we have never felt. A pain beyond what we can understand. You’ve probably heard people complain "Ah, it hurts like hell," ... but no, it doesn't. It can’t. Being forsaken is what hurt Jesus the most. Not the nails, or the thorns, or the scourging that left Him hard to recognize. These were mere spankings. Slaps on the wrist. The sting of these physical wounds were pictures of the Real Pain that was coming. The unquenchable fires of hell. The burn of godlessness. A place without grace. A forever dying. Separation from His Father in both body and soul. Here mark true agony. Here you see His Passion for you. That He would be willing to suffer this for your salvation. Even as Jesus offers this prayer, even as He knows He will receive no answer - He Knows the Answer! You have forsaken Me for them. You have abandoned Me for their sake. That these sinners might live. That these ones who deserve this - might never taste it - that they might be spared this pain. Thy Will Be Done Father. Thy Will Be Done. Save them! Don’t save Me! This is Love. This is what it means to Love someone. Agape in the Greek. Not a feeling. Not an idea. An action. Committed. Devoted. Selfless. Action. What do you say to something like this? How do you even begin to respond? What words would you offer to the One who did this for you? Yet this is where it takes us. To prayer. The One who acted this way for us wants to come deeper and closer by this Word. He pushes Himself deeper into our hearts and minds, even as He pushed deeper into the pain of death for us. He pushes to plant Himself there in you by this Word, that you might know Him and speak to Him. Tell Him what He has done for you. Thank Him. Praise Him. Turn to Him in every need. No matter how long it has been, no matter how far away you feel, no matter what you have done, Christ comes to call you with this Word that you might speak it back to Him in prayer. He will not leave you alone. You cannot be forsaken, because the forsaken One is near and will never leave you. Open to Him. Knock down the walls of idols to Him. Know the gracious One who was forsaken for you. Beloved, all of your prayers are answered because this prayer of Christ was not. You will never be forsaken because the Son, your Savior, was. You have eternal life because the lifeblood of God left Him and flows down His cross to you. May you trust in His acting love and promise all the more this Lenten season, calling on the One who delivers you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr