SCRIPTURE (Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9)
Brothers and sisters:
Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God,
let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
In the days when Christ was in the flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
The last year of my life has been full of a number of transitions that has left me questioning myself, my purpose, calling and place in the world. It has felt as though I am starting over- maybe because I am. Professionally, after Inspirio Youth Ministries, the non-profit for which I was the Executive Director closed, I decided to start a new service-based ministry. Failing at Inspirio has been embarrassing and humiliating. Starting a new nonprofit corporation has been exhilarating and confidence shattering all at the same time. Needing to make ends meet, I have taken on some part time roles teaching both in high school and college. Like many people my identity has been wrapped up in what I do. What I knew; who I thought I was has been thrown aside. Sometimes, I feel like I am over my head and going to drown. Personally, some of my closest relationships have come apart. People who I thought were my closest friends didn’t seem to like or approve of this new direction. Perhaps it was unsettling for them to see so many changes in me. One person unfriended and blocked me on Facebook. It is perplexing and disappointing how quickly these challenges undermine my confidence in myself and even my faith in God. I am 100% convinced that starting this new ministry is a call from God. Yet there are moments I am frustrated and worry that God’s timing will not be as fast as I need it. Will I be humiliated, embarrassed and become a failure again? How will I maintain my dignity? Where are you God?
ENTER JESUS. For centuries our theology focused on a formula for salvation. We are saved because the fully human and fully divine Jesus, paid a ransom on the cross to God, for the broken relationship caused by the sin of Adam. It is a legalistic approach and one that believes that God needs the bloody sacrifice of his son in retribution. There may be another way. Instead let us contemplate the internal disposition of Jesus during his passion and death. Jesus is arrested, tortured and killed because he speaks the truth. He announces that God is with us in the midst of our joys and struggles. He calls people to serve and love the poor, he challenges the hypocritical religious authorities, he forgives, heals, and elevates outcasts. Those who are small minded and threatened need him out of the picture. Yet Jesus remains true to himself and God. Not for a moment should you allow yourself to believe that this was easy for Jesus because he was God. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he is so anxious and scared that his sweat becomes like drops of blood. On the cross he cries out asking God why he was forsaken and abandoned. All the while, through betrayal, a sham trial, being sold out by those who yelled “crucify him,” torture, ridicule and execution, he never loses his dignity or his faithfulness. Jesus trusts and surrenders his entire being to God.
The human experience is filled with suffering. Broken relationships, loss of purpose and direction, discovering our identity, illness and death are common challenges. It is easy to feel betrayed, minimized and humiliated. To lose our dignity when all seems lost. Jesus gives witness that our redemption rests in our willingness to die literally and figuratively out of faithfulness to God. It wasn’t the pain that Jesus endured that redeems us, but his trust and faith in God. Faithfulness does not mean we will be delivered from pain and difficulty in our life. It does mean that death is not the end. As a human, Jesus could not have envisioned the Resurrection. It would have been beyond him. He had to go through and experience the pain. All the while he showed us how to be fully human.
Jesus has given us a path. Whatever your worries, whatever you are trying to control - let it go. Allow yourself to die. Surrender. Trust. Wait.
These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc. Discovery House, a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20, will begin August 2018. Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.
- What is causing you to lose hope or 'testing' your belief in yourself? What suffering are you dealing with?
- What prevents or helps you from turning it over to God?
- What needs to die in you?
- How able are you to sit with pain, suffering, embarrassment, humiliation and be faithful to God and yourself?
PRAY listen and reflect on the song Will I? from the musical Rent. In the story, it is sung by individuals at an AIDS support group. They know they are going to die a painful death while being ridiculed and rejected by society. As you listen, put yourself in Jesus' place. Might he have felt alone, scared and anxious about the pain and humiliation he was going to face? Listen to it thinking of your life. Tell God what is troubling you. Ask God for strength to be true to yourself, face your suffering with dignity and faithful to God's will.
FAST Refrain from eating more than one full meal. Offer the discomfort, pain and struggle to God.
ALMSGIVING Give time and quiet to yourself today. Just be yourself in front of God.
Joe Nettesheim is the founder and director of 12plus1. He has been involved in Church Ministry since 1991- evidence provided in the picture accompanying this bio. He and his wife Maribeth have a blended family of 5 children, 2 sons in-law, 6 grandkids and a crazy 80 pound Golden Doodle, puppy TS Eliot.