12 May 2015 (for the Parish)
Sometimes the Word of God doesn’t bring comfort. When there’s a death in the family, or something as tragic as the shootings in Menasha last week, about the last people want to hear is: “They’re in a better place.” Of course, we believe that heaven is certainly a better place. But sometimes the bigger picture, or the truth of God’s word isn’t helpful. In fact, it might make the situation worse.
Now, we hear that Jesus was preparing his disciples for his eventual crucifixion and death. And he had somewhat of a hard time convincing them that it was a good thing. When he said: “Trust me, it’s better for you that I go,” the disciples were “filled with grief” and near to being heart-broken. Jesus’ words were meant to comfort them. But it would take a while for that comfort to come. In fact, they would have to embrace that grief in order to be comforted.
There’s a reason one of the beatitudes is: “Blessed are they who weep and mourn, for they will be comforted.” No doubt, Paul and Silas wept as they were beaten and imprisoned for trying to do good. They shared in the darkness of the Cross. But they were different. They were men of deep faith.
For Paul and Silas, the Word of God did bring comfort in the midst of a trying time. The Word of God wasn’t trite; it didn’t sound impersonal and meaningless to them. On the contrary, it was the most deeply personal support they needed when they were in prison. Their faith was their solace; God himself was their light in dark and trying times. And, for that, they gave thanks.
Sometimes bringing the Word of God into a bad situation only makes the situation worse—for people who lack faith. But for those who of deep faith, the Word of God is always a reason to be hopeful. Jesus gives us our reason to hope: he gives himself. He gives us his Body and Blood as food for the journey through the ups and downs of life. He gives us his living Word to bring guidance, wisdom, and consolation. And he gives us the promise of his abiding Spirit.
12 May 2015 (for the Middle School)
Some of the saddest people we’ll ever meet are people who don’t have faith. It seems like almost anything gets them upset or worried. Either that, or they’re always trying to be on a spiritual ‘high.’ And that kind of life is just hard, in a lot of ways: you know, emotionally, and socially, and spiritually. Life is hard when you don’t have real faith in God.
Now, today we hear that Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in prison because of the good things they were doing. Just imagine that . . . a bunch of Roman soldiers slamming rods against your head, making your body all bruised and sore; there’s probably blood everywhere. Maybe their eyes were swollen and their lips were split open. It wasn’t pretty.
But Paul and Silas were men of great faith. And so, even they’d been beaten and thrown into a prison—no sunlight, no fresh air—they kept singing how good God is. They weren’t sad at all! In fact, they were just as kind and loving as they had been before they were arrested. Their bad situation in life didn’t make them sour or bitter. Nope. They just kept on praising God. They were men of faith, and nothing could shake that faith.
If you look at a tire on a bike, there’s the hub and then the rim. And when the tire’s going around, the rim is constantly going up and down, up and down, forward and backward. But the hub is pretty steady. And that’s what our faith in Jesus is like—it’s like a hub on a bike tire. Our faith in Jesus keeps us from being totally devastated when bad things happen, and it keeps us from being completely ecstatic and out of control when good things happen.
Some of the saddest people we’ll ever meet are people who don’t have faith. And that’s because they’re not connected to that central hub of the bike tire—they’re not connected to Jesus. They let the good and the bad things in life tell them whether or not they should be happy or sad or whatever.
But some of the most happy and fulfilled people we’ll ever meet are people who have real faith in God. And that’s because Jesus himself is brighter than the sunniest day, and he’s stronger than anything bad that life can throw at us. And so, Jesus says to us today: For your own good, for your own happiness, have faith in me. Have faith in me.