BIRTH PANGS

Mark 14:1- 15:47, Psalm 22:1
ST. AUGUSTINE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
MORROW, GEORGIA
THE REVEREND BARRY GRIFFIN

“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”

“My God, my God, why?  Why hast thou forsaken me?”

In the gospel of Mark, these are the only words spoken by Jesus from the cross.  That’s it.  Nothing else.  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 

These words do not belong to Jesus.  In his death, Jesus quotes a psalm: Psalm 22, verse one: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?”

In the moment of his greatest need, Jesus feels abandoned.  He feels all alone.  Where is his Father?

In Mark’s account of the crucifixion, Jesus is a lot like you and me.  If I were dying on a cross, that’s what I would feel: God, why have you forsaken me?  Where are you, God?  Where are you when I need you most? 

There is such a thing as the dark night of the soul.  God is there, but that doesn’t mean God can be seen.  There is such a thing as the cloud of unknowing.  Sometimes God is hidden in the cloud.  Sometimes you must wait for the cloud to pass.

That’s a difficult wait, and during that wait, something hurtful happens.  Something dies.

In his book, Our Greatest Gift, Henri Nouwen told this story: 

“Twins were talking to each other in the womb.  The sister said to the brother, ‘I believe there is life after birth.’  Her brother protested vehemently, ‘No, no, this is all there is.  This is a dark and cozy place, and we have nothing else to do but cling to the cord that feeds us.’  The little girl insisted, ‘There must be something more than this dark place, there must be something else, a place with light where there is freedom to move.’  Still she could not convince her twin brother.

“After some silence, the sister said hesitantly, ‘I have something else to say, and I’m afraid you won’t believe that, either, but I think there is a mother.’  Her brother became furious, ‘A mother!” he shouted.  ‘What are you talking about?  I have never seen a mother, and neither have you.  Who put that idea in your head?  As I told you, this place is all we have.  Why do you always want more?  This is not such a bad place, after all.  We have all we need, so let’s be content.’

“The sister was quite overwhelmed by her brother’s response and for a while didn’t dare say anything more.  But she couldn’t let go of her thoughts, and since she had only her twin brother to speak to, she finally said, ‘Don’t you feel these squeezes every once in a while?  They’re quite unpleasant and sometimes even painful.’ ‘Yes,’ he answered.  ‘What’s special about that?’ ‘Well,’ the sister said, ‘I think that these squeezes are there to get us ready for another place, much more beautiful than this, where we will see our mother face-to-face.  Don’t you think that’s exciting?’

“The brother didn’t answer.  He was fed up with the foolish talk of his sister and felt that the best thing would be simply to ignore her and hope that she would leave him alone.”

Henri Nouwen concludes: “This story may help us to think about death in a new way.  We can live as if this life were all we had, as if death were absurd and we had better not talk about it; or we can choose to claim our divine childhood and trust that death is the painful but blessed passage that will bring us face-to-face with our God.”

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is not a cry of disbelief.  It’s a birth pang.  It’s a shout of recognition: something very precious is dying.  Something very precious will never be seen again.

But here’s the good news: something marvelous is about to be born.

If you ever feel abandoned by God, ask yourself these two specific questions: what precious thing is dying, and what marvelous thing is about to be born?

When you feel abandoned by God, wait and trust.  Trust that something marvelous is about to happen.

Amen.

If you would like to respond to this sermon or receive future sermons by email, contact me at barryqgriffin@earthlink.net

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