Pastor John at Frederiksted Baptist preached a timely and thoughtful sermon yesterday (as he does every Sunday!). Since the hurricanes he’s been centering his thoughts on II Corinthians 1:3 that says “God is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” John’s messages for the weeks since the storms have been full of hope and reminders that even in the hard parts, God is with us and offering us respite from our suffering.
Now I have a small piece of notebook paper in my Bible, tucked into the gospels, that has listed on it the seven things Jesus said from the cross. The paper is a result of another sermon, years ago. On the cross, Jesus’ words were sparse, but significant. He first asked God to forgive, then he gave one of the robbers beside him Hope by promising that he would join Jesus in Paradise. Third, he made it clear to his friend John that he needed to look after Mary for Him. Next, Jesus stated ‘I thirst.’ It wasn’t a complaint, just a fact. After that, with the full weight of all the sin of the world on Him, he cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” His sixth statement was “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” And last – and this is my favorite one – He said, “It is finished.” Apparently, this three word phrase in English was from Jesus’ lips just one word, and the connotation of that one word was of victory. The underlying meaning, then, meant “Yes!” and had His hands not been nailed down, the statement could have been accompanied by a fist pump.
There were seven statements and as Pastor John pointed out yesterday, “Jesus didn’t give a mumbling word on the cross.” – Meaning that Jesus wasn’t up there complaining and whining. The question John was exploring was why didn’t Jesus complain? The answer is clear – it was because of the ‘super abundance’ of comfort and hope that Jesus was wise enough to keep in his thoughts and mind as He was suffering.
That’s the whole thing, though, isn’t it? There are times when I’m successful at keeping the Hope of the Lord in my mind. There are times when my eyes stay strongly fixed on the face of Jesus and I walk upon the waves on my way to Him. And then. Drat. There are other times when I lose that focus and the noise and the bad news and the trouble all around me take up my attention and I feel alone and lonely and scared and sad and I start to drown. It’s easy, when I wake up and check the news and see that at least 26 people were killed while they were worshipping yesterday in some sort of random act of hate, and then I read that nearly immediately people were blaming anything but the hate and sin (Republicans? guns?) or insulting anyone who prays, then it is pretty easy to not hear the still, quiet voice that offers me both short term and eternal – and complete – Comfort.
So, here’s my goal for this week and a challenge I extend to you: I am going to do my very best this week to stand firmly on II Corinthians 1:5. Every time my stomach begins to hurt, or I start to worry, or I feel hopeless, I am going to try to stop and focus on this. When Jesus was on the cross, he cared about others, He identified his own needs, then when He was feeling forsaken and alone, He gave up His own will and rested in the Father. Finally, he finished His job and actually saw that comfortable light at the end of the tunnel. That’s where I’m going to live this week. “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”