My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me

Matthew 27:45-46 “From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

Diego Velazquez, a Spanish painter in the Baroque period, painted “The Crucifixion” in 1632. The face of Christ from this painting was my inspiration for the worship banner that depicts the words of Christ, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

            Jesus quotes Psalm 22, not only because it expresses the anguish he feels as God turns away from him in order to pour out his wrath upon our sin, but to remind all the Jews that this event is the fulfillment of Prophecy and the work of God. Each Jew memorized this psalm and the quoting of the first verse would instantly bring the whole psalm mind. The psalm speaks to the  scorn, mocking and insulting of the people that Jesus endured. It has him surrounded by evil men who shake their heads at him. His strength is poured out like water because of the blood loss following his scourging. His bones are all out of joint from hanging by his arms. His heart has turned to wax as it tries desperately to pump the remaining blood to the oxygen starved muscles. His mouth is dry from dehydration and tastes of the dust of death. They have pierced his hands and feet in order to crucify him. He hangs there naked and gaunt for all to see and count his bones. They even cast lots for his cloths as if he were already dead.

            But God does not despise the suffering of the afflicted one. This is not God’s wrath poured out on Jesus because he deserves it but because he is the bearer of our sin. The poor, like you and me spiritually speaking, will eat the bread of life and be satisfied. All will worship him and tell others about him. “They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, for he has done it.” (Psalm 22:31) He has done it! He has won our salvation for us. This was no random act of violence. The Jewish leaders didn’t do it, nor the Romans. It was God! He has done it for us!Image

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The New Community formed at the Foot of the Cross.hand in handJohn 19:26-27  When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,[a] here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Mother Mary stood at the foot of her son’s cross and watched him die. Jesus in all his pain thought of her pain. John was the only disciple to risk his life to follow his master to the hill of Calvary. Jesus again redefines family. Previously, he had called all who hear God’s word and put it into practice his brothers and mothers. Now he looks to his friend and disciple John to fill in for him in caring for his mother. His biological half-brothers were not there but his spiritual brother was.

Mary and John stand in for humanity as Jesus redefines family in light of covenant love. In the shedding of Jesus’ blood there is a new and stronger bond than come from the water of the womb. Our families can be good or bad, dysfunctional in various degrees, but God’s family stands in the grace of Christ: thus blood is thicker than water.

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Remember Me

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This week’s banner is a scene from Calvary.

Luke 23:39-43 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

          The banner depicts only two of the three crosses because only two crosses forge a relationship. Both of the criminals have the same choice, to accept or reject Jesus. They both have a great need for mercy and salvation. One criminal rejects, mocks and insults Jesus. The other criminal defends him, confesses his own wickedness and pleads for mercy.

The second criminal asks to be remembered by Jesus. In the Hebrew language the concept of God remembering is not just an intellectual conjuring of the image of someone. If God remembers than God acts. In the center and climactic verse of the story of Noah (Genesis 8:1) we read: “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.” When God remembers God saves!

When Jesus remembers us our name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The golden scroll on the banner is the Book of Life. When we are confronted with the choice to accept or reject Jesus we are choosing to have our name written in the book or be left off. We like the thieves must choose. Will we seek God’s mercy by asking Jesus to remember us when He come in the fullness of His Kingdom? 

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Tree of LifeJesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke :23:34) Jesus prays for the soldiers who are killing him! They are ignorant of the magnitude of their sin. Yet, the love of God is o great that Jesus intercedes on their behalf.

Jesus is also praying for us! We too have not concept of the scope of our sinfulness. Evil is all around us and in us. Our Ignorance is no excuse. Thankfully, Jesus understands our limitations and pleads with God to forgive us. When we ask for forgiveness we are join our prayers to the pray Jesus has already made for us! Our prayer is sure to be heard and answered because it is Jesus’ prayer. Our desire for forgiveness is only surpasssed by Jesus’ desire that we be forgiven!

When Adam and Eve fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, God drove them out of the garden. They had the knowledge of good and evil but not the gift of eternal life. The Tree of Life is now guarded by Cherubim and a flaming sword. Our only hope to have eternal life comes through the cross of Christ. This 3’ by 6’ oil painted banner of the Tree of Life hangs in our sanctuary as a reminder that the shadow of the Tree of Life is the cross of Christ.

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VBS Macaroni and Cheese

• Vacation Bible School is one of the ways our church reaches out into our community. We offer classes for three year olds through adults. Since we start at 6:00 p.m. we offer supper to all those who attend. Since I am not intimidated by cooking for large crowds I get to run the kitchen. I enjoy the fellowship that happens between all the volunteers who help me cook, serve and clean up each night. It is also a joy to hear from mothers who are blessed by not having to cook for the week. They don’t have to scramble around between work and Vacation Bible School trying to feed their family and get here on time. I also like to create new recipes and experiment with flavors. Last night was Mac and Cheese night and these are the requested recipes:

Blue cheese macaroni

2lbs macaroni
1lbs shredded montery Jack Cheese
8 oz blue cheese crumbled
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp black pepper
1 quart milk
4 tbs butter

Topping:
2 cups bread crumbs
½ cup parmesan cheese
1 stick butter

Cook macaroni according to directions and drain, melt butter into macaroni to keep it from sticking. Mix macaroni, cheeses and spices. Place in well greased 9X13 pan. Pour milk into macaroni until it can be seen in the macaroni.
Mix bread crumbs, parmesans and melted butter, and spread on top of macaroni.
Bake at 350 for one hour.

Four cheese, bacon Mac and cheese

2 lbs macaroni
½ lbs gruyere cheese (shredded)
½ lbs asiago cheese (shredded)
½ lbs velveta (shredded or cubed)
½ cup parmesan
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp. galic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 quart milk
4 tbs. butter

4 cups corn flakes (crushed)
1 stick of butter – melted

Cook macaroni according to directions and drain, melt butter into macaroni to keep it from sticking. Mix macaroni, cheeses and spices. Place in well greased 9X13 pan. Pour milk into macaroni until it can be seen in the macaroni.
Mix crushed corn flakes and melted butter with fork and cover top of mac and cheese.
Bake at 350 for one hour

Classic Mac and cheese
2lbs macaroni
2lbs Velveta cheese cubed
2 tsp. Garlic powder
2 tsp Onion powder
1 tsp. black pepper
1 quart of milk
8 pats of butter

Cook macaroni according to directions and drain, melt butter into macaroni to keep it from sticking. Mix macaroni, cheeses and spices. Place in well greased 9X13 pan. Pour milk into macaroni until it can be seen in the macaroni.
Place pats of butter on top
Bake at 350 for one hour.

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Healing for an Empty Religion


Nick snuck in, after-hours, to see the new preacher. This preacher was unlike anyone he had ever met. That’s not to say that Nick was not religious. Nick was all about the rules, the rituals, and even the liturgy. He was very religious. He always wanted to do the right thing, to be the right person. Right and wrong seem to be a very clear matter for him. He knew who we wanted to be like and who he didn’t want to be like. He knew what style of worship he preferred and didn’t mind saying so. For Nick religion was a cut and dried.

But Nick had a problem. His heart kept nagging him saying, “Is this all there is?” He knew there had to be something more, something deeper. But he had no idea what that could be. He had filled his life with religion and still his heart longed for more. There was a gnawing emptiness that his religion could satisfy.

The preacher took one look at Nick and said, “You need a new life”.

“I have a life” Nick retorted.

The preacher tried again, “You live in the flesh, not the spirit. You need a Spirit life.

Now Nick was confused, “What is a Spirit life?”

“Let me explain” said preacher. “Your Father in heaven is Spirit. If you want a Spirit life you must have the Spirit of God living in your heart.”

” How do I get the Spirit to live in my heart?” Nick wondered aloud.

“It is not found in rituals or rules. Those are only meant to point you in the right direction. A Spirit life must begin with a relationship. And that relationship begins by believing. You must believe in the one your heavenly Father sent who will be lifted up as a sign of salvation.”

In such a way Jesus expanded Nicodemus’s religious world view. (John 3:1-21) Nicodemus was in desperate need for something deeper, something that would fill the emptiness in his heart. Too often we think being religious is what will fill the emptiness in our lives. But it doesn’t. It was never meant to. It was only meant to draw us into a relationship, to point us toward God. The God shaped void within our hearts can only be filled with God. It cannot be filled with the stuff that we think about God, or do for God, or say about God. We need an encounter with the person of God. God became flesh and dwelt among us so that this relationship could happen.

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The Glory of God

The Glory of God

Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? (Exodus 15:11)

To face the glory of God is a terrible thing. Moses is fearful of a burning bush. The Israelites were terrified when God came down on Mount Sinai. “To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.” Exodus 24:17 And you said, “The LORD our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a person can live even if God speaks with them. But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer. For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? Go near and listen to all that the LORD our God says. Then tell us whatever the LORD our God tells you. We will listen and obey.” Deuteronomy 5:24-27 The Israelites feel the glory of the Lord to be too much to bear and fear for their lives.
Isaiah has his own encounter. “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:1-5) Isaiah knows he is unclean and doesn’t belong in the presence of a holy God.
The glory of God revealed in the man Jesus is no easier to receive. Peter, James and John are overwhelmed by the powerful presence of God’s glory shining out of Jesus at the transfiguration. “After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.” (Matthew 17:1-8) It is the touch of their friend Jesus, no longer transfigured, that dispels their fear.
The shepherds who received the angel announcement of Jesus’ birth are full of fear at the appearance of God’s messengers. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” These shepherds do not hide in fear but seek to find the promised Messiah.
The glory of God is an awesome thing. Terror and fear are the normal human reactions to an encounter with God. There is only one exception in scripture: the baby in a manger. Paul writes, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (II Corinthians 4:6) In the face of a vulnerable baby the glory of God is revealed in a way that we can receive it. The holy and awesome God humbled himself and became a helpless baby so that the human race could understand and relate to God. The awesome glory of God had always kept us at a distance. We are not holy. Darkness lives inside each of us so that we can not endure the radiant presence of God. So God came to us in a way that could draw us to Himself: as a baby.
This is why Christmas has so much power. A world that doesn’t acknowledge God the rest of the time still pauses its’ hectic activity and tolerates this baby’s day. Why? Because on this day God is approachable. On this day the gift of God’s love can be received.

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