AS CHURCH COMMUNITY, we have been commissioned to announce the words of Christ’s forgiveness to one another. This is how Christ has chosen to offer himself to us. Now it’s our job, yours and mine, to walk into the dungeons of fear and guilt as Jesus did. It’s our job to walk into the rooms where people cower in the corners, afraid of hearing “How could you?” Now it’s our job to speak words of peace and reconciliation, to announce God’s forgiveness. That’s the gift we can give one another.
ACCEPTING MY TRAUMA is not the same as saying God put the trauma in my life so I would learn these lessons; that’s just another way of saying God causes evil, which is completely antithetical to what I believe about God. And, to be sure, many people who have rich, God-filled lives did not experience trauma; trauma isn’t the only path to peace. My point is that I don’t believe trauma has to be the end of the story. It is only one chapter of the book that is our lives. And it can lead to places of profound joy if we are willing to be still, speak our truth, and experience God’s healing grace.
66:9 who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.
66:10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
66:11 You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs;
66:12 you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.
66:13 I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay you my vows,
66:14 those that my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
66:15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fatlings, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah
66:16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me.
66:17 I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue.
66:18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
66:19 But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer.
66:20 Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.
DO NOT BE AFRAID,” just like “you are forgiven,” are needed companions throughout our lives. We strive to be faithful followers, to be strong and bold in vocation. But sometimes, strength wavers. Sometimes, boldness weakens or mutates into arrogance. By and large, those experiences come because of fear.
“Do not be afraid” can fade into the background all too quickly when tragedy or injustice or downright ignorance holds sway.
But God does not give up on us. God does not strip us of our calling in those times when we realize that even having nothing to fear but fear itself still leaves us with a considerable antagonist to face. Rather, God calls us out — out of sin, out of fear — and gives us the possibility of a new day.
THE PSALMS are the prayers of God’s people, the Jews. And Christians, from the beginning, have seen in the Psalms signposts pointing to the life of Jesus. The Gospel writers refer to the Psalms often to make sense of Jesus’ own life, and today we use the Psalms throughout the church year to point us to events in his life.
Jesus himself, hanging on the cross, cried out the words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (v.1), and ever since Christians have seen in the Psalms intimations of Jesus’ life.
When I sing to my daughter before bed “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” I’m using a song based on Psalm 23 to tell her about Jesus, who, as she already knows, is the shepherd of Psalm 23. The Psalms point forward to Jesus; Jesus fulfills the Psalms. Through the Psalms, Jesus can be our Teacher.
PRAYER IS NOT bending God to my will but bringing my will into conformity with God’s so that God’s will may work in and through me. … Prayer is not bending the universe to your will, making God a cosmic bellhop for your purposes; prayer is cooperating with God’s purposes to do things you never dreamed you could do.
The highest form of prayer comes in Jesus’ words in Gethsemane: “Yet not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus did not say, “Your will be borne,” which is how we often translate it. He said, “Your will be done,” which implies a cooperation with an outgoing, redemptive will that desires our highest good.
I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay you my vows,
those that my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
Psalm 66:13-14, NRSV