Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cold Chisel Nails

Second Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 49:8-16
Bror Erickson

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; My Lord has forgotten me.”

And Christ cries out from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Here is the most righteous, the only righteous person ever to live, and He is dying on the cross. Here the embodiment of Zion, the temple of God, is hanging on the cross, nails like cold chisels (the chisels used for cutting stone) hammered through His hands. My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?

Oh, we have been there too. Have we not? I have. The chips are down; the world seems to be falling away. Life takes a tailspin. You leave the doctor’s office and have to break it to your wife that you have cancer. Your loved one dies. Your spouse runs off. Abandoned, and alone the depression seeps in, it fills your chest. Heavy, you even find it hard to breath, you can’t go to sleep, and you can’t stay awake. And you blame God. After all He is in control right? Why would He do this to me? Doesn’t He love me? Haven’t I believed enough, shown my loyalty enough? Why is this happening?
Christianity in America is big on selling the American dream, big houses with swimming pools, four wheelers, fancy cars, “Your Best Life Now,” “Be a Better You.” Many would have you believe that if you are a Christian, bad things aren’t supposed to happen to you. Or that the good things in life are there because God has loved you more. God must really love Donald Trump. And so God does love Donald Trump. He loves everyone. But that has nothing to do with why that man is rich, and why you are trying to figure out if you can afford to drive to work tomorrow as gas prices keep climbing. Do you honestly believe that God loves Donald Trump more than the people of Burma? Hey, there is an example for illustration. I mean if we were to take this idea that God shows His love with material blessings to its natural conclusion you would have to believe God loves the lying, cheating, self absorbed, murderous generals of Myanmar, more than He does all those people suffering at their hands. The world doesn’t work like that people. God doesn’t work that way either. God gives all people their daily bread, even all evil people. But there is no rhyme or reason to the distribution of it in this fallen world.
But Zion tends to take it personal. Zion says, “The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me. Zion, who is Zion? You are Zion. The people of God are Zion. Zion is a mountain in Jerusalem. Well, not much of a mountain, but… It is on this mountain, that Solomon built God’s Temple, His house. So Zion became the name for God’s people, all of Israel, whom He had chosen to be His people, and a blessing to the world. But Isaiah writes this about a time when the people of God, Israel, will not be in Israel. They are Zion, but in a land from which they cannot see Zion. They are in exile, slaves to Babylon. And those who had remained faithful to God now feel betrayed by God, because they have to suffer with those who were not faithful. They have to suffer for the sins of another. Zion, God’s faithful, said, “The Lord has forsaken me, My God has forgotten me.” Why do I have to go into exile? Why couldn’t God just punish the ones who were wrong? Who weren’t faithful, who did not honor the laws of God? (Of course one might also ask, who has been faithful? But that is a question for another time.) Why does He punish us all together? What have I done to deserve this? Am I not a member of Zion, one of God’s people? If we are God’s people, then why don’t we get special favors?
You see this is where that stuff is really problematic. This selling of the American dream as if the reason to become a Christian is so you could be “blessed” with a Ferrari, or so that you don’t get cancer. But it doesn’t work that way. Because we Christians still live in a fallen world. We may no longer be of this world, heaven is our home for sure, but we still live in this world, and for that reason we know pain, we know suffering, and if anything, we will know more pain, and more suffering for knowing Jesus. The world hates Jesus. The world crucified Jesus. And the disciple of Jesus, the Christian, always lives knowing that the disciple is not above the teacher.
[24] "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. [25] It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. Matthew 10:24-25 (ESV)
So we shouldn’t be shocked when the chips fall. We shouldn’t be, but we are human. Often times, we are shocked. And then, we want to blame God. He was supposed to protect us. He was supposed to keep us safe. He was supposed to keep us from harm. Maybe we never expected him to give us a big house with a pool. But we never expected He would take our dad from us so young. Never expected…. Why God? Why have you forsaken me?
Why have you forgotten me?
And God answers: “Can a woman forget her nursing child? That she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?” Seems impossible doesn’t it? Who would forget her child, the one nursing at her breast? Some may even wonder how that would be possible given a young child’s propensity for crying. But the answer isn’t no. The answer is more realistic than that. The answer is yes, even these may forget. The world is so fallen, so depraved, so sinful, that mothers forget their children, and worse. We hear about it every year, parents forgetting their children in the car when they go grocery shopping. They return to the car to find a child dead of heat exposure. In today’s world children are lucky if they even make it to suckle on their mothers breast, as mother after mother, often at the encouragement of the father, murder their children with the help of a doctor, before it even gets to leave the womb. It isn’t new. This happened even there on the streets of Babylon. The early Christians used to go looking for children left by their mothers to starve or freeze to death in the woods surrounding Rome. They would baptize them. And care for them. But many died. Few survived to live in this world, but they survived in Christ, and were given a new home in heaven. In this fallen world where we live mothers can forget their children. Yes even they forget. But God says; “Yet I will not forget you.”
I won’t forget you, He says. You are mine. You are my child. I am waiting for you. Your time will come. You are my child, for in a time of favor I answered you, in a day of salvation I have helped you. On that day of salvation I hung on a cross for you. And you were engraved on the palms of my hands. Engraved on the palms of my hands, you Zion, you my chosen people, you who I elected, and chose out of this sea of people who have rejected me. I chose you, put my name on you, made you my own in the waters of baptism, made you Zion, and engraved you into my hands with nails the size of cold chisels. You Zion are engraved, not merely written there. I remember in high school my friends and I would, every once in a while, end up with a girl’s name and number on the palms of our hand so we wouldn’t forget to call. Never did forget to call. But to this day I couldn’t remember one of those girls, or their numbers. Well maybe I remember a couple of the girls whose names decorated my palm, but not the number. Writing, ink, pencil led, those are all temporary. It washes off, fades with time. Engraving lasts. I don’t know the oldest engravings I have seen, walking the streets of Rome to see stuff engraved in Christ’s day. Or in Israel there were engravings that predated the incarnate Christ. Amazing, engraving is forever, permanent. It doesn’t just wash off, or fade away with time. God says I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. Engraved in deed. I have a scar. I have a scar on my hand, and every time I see it I think of a friend, an old friend. I will think of him every time I look at that scar. He is engraved on my hand. I may have gotten the scar when I was young foolish, back when I was still writing the names of girls on my hand, but to this day we are still friends. God, He did the same. He engraved you on His hands, both of them. Nail holes running through. And as long as He lives He will have those scars, and remember you. For those scars are the trophies of victory, the victory of victories, conquering death, hell and squashing the serpent’s head. And with those scars you, His people, you Zion, are engraved on His hands. With those scars He will not forget you, but will return for you when the time is right, and take you with Him to His Father in heaven.
Now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

No comments: