Missouri Synod Church in Downtown Memphis

Four Cathedrals

20130620-150256.jpgOur lectionary at times is a cruel and unmerciful sniper. It rests the Scriptures into a well-calibrated weapon of war and fires them directly at the heart. That is, after all, what we need isn’t it – the hope of Christ to hit us where it matters; where the Word of God actually affects the way we process our earthly journey.

For the last two weeks, the 3rd and 4th Sundays after Pentecost, our Scripture readings have centered around three forgiven sinners, each of which have suffered the death of their sons – the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-24), the widow at Nain (Luke 7:11-17), and finally, as a consequence of his own sinfulness, King David (2 Samuel 12:13-22). For two of them, God met their sorrow with immediate hope – He raised their sons on the spot. For one of them, the hope of resurrection would have to stay just that – yet unrealized hope.

As these Scriptures convict my heart, even as hearing them read aloud made me weep in my pew, I feel led to share with you some reflections on how God’s work in the lives of these three forgiven sinners affects the way I process my own earthly journey; how His work might affect the way you process yours as well.

I know God seems completely random sometimes. Sometimes He meets our sorrow with immediate hope – answered prayers, inexplicable miracles, things like that. Other times, and these are the seasons when our faith is relentlessly tested, the hope of Christ, it seems, will have to remain just that – yet unrealized hope. That’s what makes the Gospels – especially the many accounts of Christ’s miracles – so bittersweet for so many who have known so well the silence of Almighty God.

St. Paul deals with this tension head on. In Romans chapter 8. He writes this: “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:22-25).

And so we hope. Yet our hope isn’t always without hurt, and in the depths of that hurt, it’s easy, isn’t it, to wonder why God won’t meet our sorrow with immediate hope just as He does time and time and time again in the Scriptures. We hope, but that hope, I know for so many of you, is yet unrealized; it’s not without hurt.

As Paul tells us to be people of hope, so St. John tells us what our hope in Christ looks forward to. Listen to what he says as he describes the day of Christ’s coming, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away'” (Revelation 21:3-4).

Melissa and I are slowly but surely, by the grace of God and entirely by His help, beginning to climb out of the pit. He is our daily strength, and by His strength I see the shades of recovery that will soon allow me back into the pulpit to talk with you about His unending grace both again and anew. Ours is a God who promises to work despite and often even through our many weaknesses. I’m counting on that as I begin sometime next week to resurface back into my Office as your shepherd.

And so I want to begin walking that road by saying this to those of you who know what it is to grieve; who are or have been at some point frustrated with God because His hope for you is yet unrealized, who pray desperately for one need or another and feel like God just doesn’t care. This much I know for certain: God is exactly who He says He says He is. He is faithful, and He is good, and His mercies are new every morning.

The miracles of Christ tell us so many things about our Lord, but for me – as I think about loss, and reflect on these two cathedrals God raised from the dead (1 Kings 17, Luke 7) – I see His miracles as less about showing us how God always works in the lives of His children (which would lead us to wonder why He doesn’t always work that way for us), and more about showing us just a glimpse of the awesome power of God; the things He can do in the lives of His children. The things He will do.

Let me say that another way: He promised us that He would answer our prayers, He proved that He could answer our prayers, and so He absolutely will answer our prayers in this life or on the Day of His glorious appearing.

No matter how deep your sorrows, no matter how long you’ve called out to God to take away whatever hurts you carry, we cling to One who promised that He would and proved that He could; the One who most definitely will.

May the blessings of God and the peace of Christ be with you all. I look forward to seeing you all very soon.

  1. Josh, this is just so awesome, such hope and encouragement for those
    who grieve. I know how it is to grieve, when God took Warren I didn’t think I would ever quit hurting, because it was so sudden – like Thomas’s death, and it just seems to hit one harder – because it is such a shock, but we as Christians do have the hope of resurrection and we do know that God has His loving arms around us, giving us that hope and His
    strength. I pray for you and Melissa every day, and thank you for this wonderful article. Joann Wright

  2. Thank you, Josh, for this gracious reminder that our LORD is just who He says He is. . . And we can depend on Him to be faithful to His promises. When my son Eddie died so suddenly, I wondered if I would ever recover my same trust and confidence in God. The Holy Spirit brought me on a healing journey that was and still is remarkable. I praise and thank Him daily that I can turn to His Word for comfort and healing and growth. I know you are doing the same. Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us. It is strengthening and reassuring. And I thank God for you and Melissa daily. You know that you are always in my prayers. And I am also so grateful that you adopted Thomas. Your love for Thomas reminds me so often of God’s adoption of me as His child. You modeled this for us all. What a gift!

  3. God is good. Good to share journeys of healing – yours, Joann’s & Pat’s..
    As a child, my first experience with death were watching my father and his two brothers under a tent before their sister and then their mothers grave 6 months later. Three of the biggest, strongest men in my life washed with tears and grief. Then they arose, stood, and slowly walked on to resume their life’s journey. We would all give the gift healing to give you all if it were possible.. Our hearts are big enough to hold all those hurting with prayers,

  4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Josh. You have been given a beautiful gift of writing and you cause me to see how a believer journeys through times like you and Melissa have experienced. It comforts me to read your words when I know it is I who should be comforting you. Please continue to update us who are not in Memphis in this beautiful manner. All of us in Stuttgart continue to care about you and Melissa and are praying for you and the people that you so wonderfully shepherd.