"The Gate" – Rev. Tony Romaine – April 26th, 2020
When I was a child in Elementary school, I can remember lining up by the doors to go outside for recess. I remember the anticipation of wanting to get out and get to the bag for the ball I needed, or to be the first person to race to the swing and get the best of all the swings. I remember the excitement I felt at being freed for even a little bit during the school day to go and run and play and be happy and joyful with my friends. And I like to remember that care-free, child-like nature when I hear this Gospel today about Jesus being our Gate.
But before we can talk about Jesus being the gate, we must also speak about Jesus as Shepherd. Why does Jesus make such a good shepherd? Because he is both at once the lamb and the shepherd. He is the one who will die to take away all of our sins, the innocent lamb that was led to the Cross in order to pay the ultimate price for our degradation of the gifts God gave us. He is, in the words of 1 Peter for today, the one who committed no sin and spoke no deceit. And he is the one who suffered greatly and did not answer back violence with violence, but peacefully laid his life down for all our salvation.
But at the same time Jesus did this, He was also the Shepherd who would lead us into the blessed fields of eternal life. The Shepherd who looks after His flock with unending watchfulness. The Shepherd who would go searching for the one lost sheep, the Shepherd who wants all of His sheep to be in the fold, and again, the Shepherd who puts His own life up against all odds for the sheep in His pasture.
This is why the metaphor of the gate is so wonderful. Remember from our Gospel, Jesus says, “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” Where once there were locked doors that disciples were hiding behind, now we have open gates. Where once we could not possibly know the way and the truth and the light, now Jesus is our gate and begs us come and find pasture. Where once we were lost and tumbling in a whirlwind of sin and greed, we are now saved through an open door to freedom.
But let us take this metaphor of Jesus being the gate even farther. In the beginning of creation itself, we were given everything, we lived in pastures of green and in the Garden of Eden, we had it all. There was not a gate closed to us at all, except as we know, the one tree we were not supposed to eat from. When we, through our own free will given to us by God, sinned and were forced to leave the garden, the gate was locked and we were not allowed to re-enter the garden ever again. This is not to say that God did not want us there in the garden, that God did not want us to be in pastures of providence, that God did not want us to be safe and in relationship with Him; but we had committed a sin which would forever taint our humanity and that meant the gate must be closed.
Let us fast-forward though, because to me it seems at some point after thousands of years of trying to get the point across to humanity that we must pursue God with all our heart, mind, body, and soul; that we were given free will to choose God; that after years and years and years of humanity still trusting in their own capacities and their own power and their own wealth, thinking that they were the ones who provided it for themselves; it seems at this point that God had a revelation of sorts.
God realized that because of the creation event and the gift of free-will, humanity will inevitably sin and not always choose the right and holy path. Thus, a new covenant had to be made, one based on pure grace where humanity would be saved not through destruction and re-creation, but through a gift from God of forgiveness and mercy; through the gift of an open gate and a forgiving God. As it states in Jeremiah 31:34, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” It was as if God was saying to humanity through the prophet Jeremiah, “Yes I know you are bound to sin from time-to-time, yes I know that there is goodness in my creation, and so in order for the goodness to shine I must be the one to forgive, the one to be Holy, the one to be almighty, and in return trust that through a gift of grace my creation will turn toward me.” This completely free gift of grace thus leads to the gate being opened and Jesus being our gate!
Theologically I cannot say whether that means we will return to Eden or if Revelations is correct and there will be a new heaven and a new earth. However, one thing I am sure of is that because God’s grace has shone through Jesus into our lives, because of God’s grace upon the Cross where our sins have been paid for by the ultimate price, the sacrificial lamb of Jesus, God Incarnate; that wherever that pasture of green and plenty is for us, the gate has been forever opened and can never be closed again.
See, this is the new covenant we talk about when we take Communion, when we take from the cup of the blood of the New Covenant; that we are forgiven by the sacrifice of Our Shepherd, and in that moment, the path is made clear for our eternal salvation.
Which is why the text from Acts for today is so powerful. When the people of ancient Jerusalem and the surrounding areas heard those words condemning them as the ones who had crucified the living Christ, they immediately were ashamed and heartbroken. So it should be for us when we hear these words, when we hear at what cost our lives have been paid, when we understand what it took for us to be given an open gate to an eternal pasture.
But, just like those Israelites of old that Peter was preaching to, so should we hear this lesson today not as a condemnation of our souls, but as a call for us to repent and to turn toward God; a call to re-commit our lives as sheep who have been given an open gate to the greenest of pastures. That through our baptism, we have received the Holy Spirit and through that baptism, we are baptized into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That with, and by, the power of the Holy Spirit, we can proclaim the resurrected Christ to the world and call the world to be a place of love where all God’s children can be welcomed into God’s eternal fold.
But more so for our present day and age, we can offer a tender message of comfort amidst adversity; of God coming alongside a lost generation, of God coming alongside his Creation and being there to walk through the pains and ills and abuses of life. For this is truly one of the most powerful pieces of our Trinitarian belief, that Jesus was God Incarnate, our open gate, and so was completely human at the same time. Which means that Jesus felt the same pains we feel, caught the same illnesses we catch, and certainly felt the loneliness we all feel.
Furthermore, Jesus suffered the same way we suffer, perhaps he suffered even more than we can know what suffering is; because, while we suffer from the anguish of physical and emotional pain, which Jesus surely suffered from also; Jesus also suffered as God knowing that his was the price to pay as Our Great Shepherd to open the gate for us. That this sacrifice was His and His alone, and that we to this day would still be, as our Gospel states, misunderstanding what Jesus was teaching us.
And what is Jesus teaching us today? “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” Jesus is beckoning us, as the Good Shepherd He is, to come and be saved, to come and find pasture, to enter in and to go out. Jesus is calling us to never forget the cost it took to open that gate, to be that gate; but Jesus is also calling us to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to share this Good News of the open gate with the world.
And like children who rush through the doors of the school, who race to the swing set or to the jungle gym or to the basketball court; like children who run free with arms wide open feeling every part of their creation, Jesus is calling us to come in, to go out, and to find that blessed pasture where we can roam forgiven and freed, Amen!
A Living Hope – Rev. Tony Romaine – April 19th, 2020
As I did yard work this week and pruned things and organized things and readied the yard for the Spring, I thought of what preparation people who are more talented at gardening than myself do to ready things this time of year. How they till the soil, they turn the soil and the nutrients to increase the flow of oxygen and nitrogen, they fertilize to increase those nutrients that bring life, they clear away the death and decay from a long winter, and they being to imagine what life can be planted anew. And then eventually they plant seeds or bulbs in hope of glorious gardens to come; gardens that will take time, patience, determination, and love; gardens who need someone to tend to them and care for them and nurture them along in a living hope.
A Living Hope
The title for today’s sermon comes from the passage in 1 Peter where the author says that we are given a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that although we have not seen Jesus, we love Him. It is just amazing to me how the Scriptures truly match up with our current season. Now, as a pastor, I think that the Scripture matches just about every week, but recently we have been able to really parallel with the Gospels and the other readings. A lot of this has to do with our season of isolation and distancing as we effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19. But in this manner, we are much like the disciples who were feeling alone and isolated from their Rabbi; from Jesus. The disciples who were left to try and remember all Jesus’ teachings, who were left to deal with the geo-political state of affairs that were resultant after the crucifixion and death and burial of Jesus, and who were left to be the future for this small movement which we now know as Christianity.
Furthermore, they had to do all of this at the very same time they were grieving the loss of Jesus, their teacher, their guide, their brother, their son, their everything. So it is no wonder they locked themselves away out of fear of persecution. It is no wonder they were separating themselves from a society which just crucified Jesus, and it is no wonder they were huddled with one another trying to figure out what the next steps would be and to care for one another amidst their grief and turmoil.
Thus, we can empathize with those disciples of the locked doors, can’t we?! We are struggling in our homes and wondering why we are left to be in this state. We have to worship via computer or phone or tablet or whatever device we have instead of being able to sit in person in our church. We are isolated so as to not be infected and die of an invisible disease, an invisible pandemic, which strikes all ages, and as of yet, has no cure. We are left to represent to a world the hope and faith one must have in times such as these, while also representing that our hope and faith is not dependent upon a building or gathering in person. That we can be intelligent human beings gifted by God to think critically and trust in our scientists and doctors, while also representing a faith that is solely dependent upon God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And we are left to grieve without our Risen Savior here to physically comfort us, without our family here to comfort us, without our friends to comfort us; as we journey through this season of fear and despair.
See, we are right there behind those very same locked doors as the disciples of so long ago. But here is the Good News for today and for all time…Jesus came and stood among the disciples despite their locked doors, as not just an aberration or some non-physical being, but stood there so they could touch and feel it was truly Him. And in so doing, Jesus did two things right away for those huddled disciples, and subsequently for us.
First, he spoke a word of peace for them. Peace be with you, or in the Greek it could be translated as to you, or for you, or at you, but regardless, God’s peace be here with you. “Calm your hearts, take a moment, slow down, abandon the world to the world for a moment and just be present with me, Jesus Christ, as I come here to help you to understand.” Jesus came and stood among the disciples and offered them the peace to know that He was resurrected; “see here are my wounds,” as he shows the disciples. Jesus came and stood among the disciples to offer them the peace to see that all he had said would happen indeed came true; to visibly show them so they could believe and trust, and hope, and live in the peace that Christ offers and to know we are forever His.
And Jesus came and stood among the disciples and offered them peace to be their comfort in their time of need. To be the peace they needed to ease their grieving souls, to be the peace they needed to get through this terribly difficult time, and to be the peace that would carry them through the next very important moments in their young journey; a peace we are also offered now as we isolate and must be the living hope for our world.
The other thing Jesus did for the disciples right away, is to breathe the Holy Spirit upon them. We are used to talking about this at Pentecost, but we all too often paint over the importance of the Holy Spirit that Jesus breathed into the disciples at this moment. For in so doing, Jesus grants the disciples the power to forgive sins, while also enlivening them with the very breath of God to go and be the disciples Jesus longs for the world to see. Perhaps you are thinking to yourself, “Why breathe the Holy Spirit and then only share that the disciples can forgive sins? Why not also share all the other wonderful things we know about the Holy Spirit; like life-giving strength, the very breath of God, the ability to speak in tongues, and the list goes on?”
For one simple, yet very important reason: The disciples would never have been able to take the message of Jesus to the world if they could not first forgive the world which crucified Jesus. Those disciples would have remained huddled in that room, behind those locked doors, and would have just kept this wonderful message of a God who loves beyond death, a God who forgives all sins, a God who can breathe life into us whether we see it or not; the disciples could not take that message out without the Holy Spirit and all the great things that come from the breath of God, but they also would not have offered that to the world had they not been commanded to forgive. And in that moment, when Jesus appeared and offered peace and the Holy Spirit, our living hope began!
A Living Hope
As we now huddle in all the places where we are left to be the living hope to this world, it is important to hear this Scripture and how it still speaks to us today. See, we are too in need of Jesus to come and offer us the very same peace the disciples were given. We are in need of knowing that we can be upset, we can be scared, we can be afraid, we can not know what the next step is…and we can bring it all to Jesus, to God, in a moment of peace and surrender ourselves at the foot of the Cross. The living hope, the peace that comes through knowing that no matter what our world throws at us, we are alive in Christ through the resurrected and Risen Savior that is Christ. And that Jesus is real and is with us through the Holy Spirit. Moreover, when all is said and done, we need to be able to forgive our world and to trust in the Holy Spirit to guide us through our next moments. Perhaps though, we also need to be able to offer ourselves some grace too; to offer ourselves the grace to experience and feel, and dare I say doubt, as we feel all the emotions that are human and makes us who we are! Which is why the next part of our Gospel is included in this great message of a living hope; the doubting Thomas narrative, the seeing and believing or not seeing and believing narrative, the Jesus returning once more to ease the disciples narrative. Because, this is us also!
We are inspired by the living hope through the resurrection, we are alive every year anew when we celebrate Easter and sing those great hymns about Jesus Christ being Risen Alleluia! We are awakened to remember that our faith is a living hope in the one great day when Jesus will return and our world will be turned upside down and we will be part of the new earth and the new heaven. We are all of this and more, but we are also very much a “see it to believe it” kind of people. And perhaps more this year than other years, we are feeling the strain of being alone in our world, of being distant from God, of having to be a person of faith and hope in a time of unending news cycles about Covid-19, about death, about isolation and emptiness. We ask God to send us a sign, to give us something tangible, to be with us so we can see and know and hope for that new day.
And in this moment when we need God the most, we must fall back on that living hope which requires us to water it, to gently till the soil, to plant the seed, to nurture with kind words, to grant us grace when we sin and do harm, to live in the wonderful moments when life blooms anew, and to remember the resurrection and hope when all seems lost. And through our Scriptures, we receive our help, we hear something that goes unsaid in the Gospel, but speaks louder than words: Jesus had already appeared to the disciples once, but He came back again just for Thomas, just for you, and just for me! And just as Jesus again offers peace to those disciples who are still huddled, just as Jesus turns to Thomas and offers him the love of a Savior, so too are we offered yet again the living hope…
Wow, these Scriptures today, do you feel them speaking to you? What do they say? What peace do you feel? What does the Holy Spirit breathed into you feel like? How does it feel to know that Jesus came back just for you? How are you going to be the living hope today?!
I love the way our Gospel ends today, with John telling us that Jesus did so much more than this, but that he wrote these specific things down so that “through believing we may have life in Jesus’ name.” Like a gardener planting a wonderful seed in a freshly prepared soil. Having watered it and gently cared for it, given it light and nourishing life, now we may live. So live in the peace of Christ, receive the life of the Holy Spirit breathed into you, and live in that blessed hope of our resurrected Savior, Amen!
Revealed! – Rev. Tony Romaine – Easter Sunday, April 12th, 2020
I must admit I am a huge fan of those shows on HGTV where they take a house and remodel it and then surprise people with all the renovations and improvements; and the Big Reveal, as it is called in show business is always priceless and unexpected. Well, how surprising would it be to those who were expecting a closed tomb, a body to bury, and yet now they see an empty tomb and no body! If they pulled back the apron, pulled back the curtains, rolled back the stone…and there was nothing, we might not think that much of a reveal, and certainly in our day and age of modern television, that would be the antithesis of a Big Reveal. However, this emptiness, the empty tomb of Jesus was a bigger reveal than anyone could possibly know!
This morning, we are just as surprised, for we too are mourning an emptiness right now. As we worship here today, our church is mostly empty, our favorite places mostly empty; and perhaps, our own souls and spirits running dry from a long Lenten season. But just like the empty tomb was filled with meaning, our empty church is serving a different purpose for us this Easter morn. Sure, our church is not full of the hum and buzz of physical energy, but something new is happening here today, some big reveal is on the brink.
I said when this whole Covid-19 thing started that we would one day get to celebrate Easter as a resurrected people, and that we would wait for that day when we could be together physically in this place, our church, once more. But my eyes have been opened to something amazing; indeed God has revealed and reminded me that we are a resurrected people right now, that we are always a resurrected people when we partake in Jesus’ love for one another, Jesus’ love for the world, Jesus’ desire that the Church exist; and that love cannot be confined to a space or a place. When we do all these things, we live into the resurrected selves we are and create connections that are stronger than death, stronger than Covid-19, and are strong enough that distance and space cannot keep us apart.
And when we celebrate our resurrection, when we look into the tombs of our lives and realize they are just empty spaces, when we roll back the stones of our hearts, and see that our Savior is with us always, for we are His resurrected people, who must proclaim that Good News; well then, we live revealed, we live anew, and we can remind this world that something exciting and new is happening.
“How can it be?,” you might ask. “How can we celebrate something new when all of what was normal is seemingly lost?” “What could God possibly be revealing to us in this broken season?” It seems like so long ago now, especially in the difficulty we are currently experiencing, but at Christmas time, God burst forth into our world. And in so doing, when Jesus was born, God revealed something entirely new, did something entirely new, and did something that was completely unexpected. Fast forward to today, Easter Sunday, and here we are at the empty tomb once again hearing the Scripture that has become so familiar to us, hearing the words of John and the story of Mary and Jesus in the garden! And we hear about God doing something else entirely new…Resurrection!
In doing this, God revealed something entirely new to us, that God who loved us so much as to create us, who knows us so well; knows that we are sinners who are unable to come close to perfection, who sent Jesus to teach us, live with us, guide us, and then die for us; God revealed to us that the unconditional love which we heard about from Jesus was true, and the amazing grace that would grant us life eternal would forever change our lives.
“Yes, but what is new about that?” you might ask, “what is new that I haven’t heard before?” “How are our lives forever changed, what has been revealed?” Well, it is true that we can come close to understanding the resurrection and how our lives are changed by God’s grace, but there is another important “reveal” that has changed our lives that we often overlook. Listen again to the words from Colossians 3:3-4, “3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” I bet you are all like, “well now that is clear, huh!”
No…well what the words from Colossians are getting at is that our lives are directly tied with Christ. And so, we are born into Christ, we die with Christ, and we live a life eternal thanks be to the revealed Christ! Moreover when we reveal our life in Christ, or in the words of Acts; witness to all that Jesus did, our true nature, our true reality, our lives will be revealed for all to see! The Easter message we have been hearing for so long, which comforts our souls and reminds us we are saved thanks to Jesus; is less about how Jesus died for us and actually a revelation of what we must do to live; an entirely new way to live; a life in which everyone around us knows who we are in Christ through the way we love ourselves and the world…through the Risen Christ revealed unto the world!
And just like Jesus revealed something entirely new to the world in His birth and His life, so too we are being opened up to entirely new realizations about how we can come together as people during this difficult time by being tied to Jesus in His death and resurrection. Yes, our Church is empty and our world has been shaken to its core. Yes, we would rather have Easter with our loved ones and be able to share brunch, or Easter candy, or just the pleasantries of being near to one another. But let us not look past how our lives are still resurrected even if we are far apart. Let us not overlook the ways in which we are being transformed this Easter to be a resurrected people, to remember we are resurrected people!
Over these past few weeks, we have connected with one another in new and exciting ways, we have made more phone calls than perhaps ever before; and interestingly, even though we are isolated, we have spent more time lately thinking of how to be with one another, how our neighbor is getting by, how our fellow church members are doing during this challenging time, than we probably did when we could physically be with one another.
In this paradoxical manner, we are mirroring how Jesus is in our lives now. We no longer have the physical connection with our God who came and lived among us, walked among us, and died among us. Just like we currently do not have the physical connection with one another in our lives. And yes, the tomb is empty and we feel the emptiness, as a loss of not only that physical connection between us and our Savior, but between us and God. Just like our church lay empty and our isolated souls feel empty at the loss of connection within four walls and a roof.
However, we all too often forget that Jesus, while resurrected and no longer on earth, is within our hearts each and every moment and is with us through the Holy Spirit. We forget that no matter how far we may be from one another, we are never too far to pray for one another, call one another, send a card or letter to one another…and when we spend time connecting, taking time out of a schedule that during “normal” times might be too jampacked to even take the time, then we are being Jesus to that person through the very same holy Spirit that connects us with God.
And that is when the Big Reveal happens, that is when we suddenly realize that we are a resurrected people who are gathered together through time and space. We are a resurrected people who may see an empty church or feel isolated within our own environs, but let us feel the fullness of the revealed Christ within us and the warmth and closeness of God through the Holy Spirit. And it is in that revealed, resurrected state that we then make a new normal, one in which we no longer take our friends, family, or congregation for granted; rather, we connect, we contact, we pray, and we live in the Holy Spirit as resurrected people joined by our Holy God; joined through the sacrifice of our Savior, joined in a love beyond love!
And in that emptiness, when everyone is watching and all they see is an empty tomb, an empty church, an empty world…It is up to us to fill it with the life and light of Jesus Christ in whom we are a revealed, resurrected people blessed by the grace of Christ to witness to the world; to share with the world the Biggest Reveal of all; that an empty tomb is not completely empty, that an empty church is not completely empty, that as a resurrected people we are full of the revealed Christ. Happy Easter, Christ is Risen indeed, Amen!
“Empty” Rev. Tony Romaine – Palm Sunday – April 5th, 2020
For whatever reason this week when I was thinking about my sermon, I kept coming back to a time when I was driving literally on fumes and thought for sure I was going to run out of gas, until I finally came to an exit with a sign for a gas station. Well, I had to drive about a mile out of my way to get to the gas station, only to find out that it was closed. I then had to go back to the interstate and continue on to the next possible gas station, which made me even more fearful that I was going to be stranded in the middle of the night all alone. I eventually made it to an open gas station and, by some miracle, did not run out of gas. And yet, I have also had times in my life where I did run out of gas and had to either walk to a gas station, or hitchhike to a gas station, or wait for someone to come and help me.
I can only imagine what Jesus must have felt as he reached the Mount of Olives and stared down into Jerusalem. He had come all this way and now sat there looking at the place of his eventual persecution, crucifixion, and resurrection. Not but days before having yet again told all the disciples that he was going to be beaten and mocked and have to die and would be resurrected. And now here he stands looking at the town where all of this will happen. Jesus the fullness of life, our God incarnate, could have easily gone a different way and our narrative would be different. Jesus could have gone on healing and prophesying and performing miracles out in the desert. But he decided to empty himself, as our passage from Philippians states, he decided to empty himself for our fulfillment; God’s fulfillment, and our eternal life. Jesus, who was God, did not take that as something that should be flaunted or held above anyone else. Rather, being God allowed Jesus to do something so much more important, he could empty himself out for us. And so it makes me wonder, what being empty is truly all about?
We get to hear all the time of our cup over-flowing, of Jesus filling us up, of how we should fill others with the outpourings of the Holy Spirit. But in order to do all of this, at some point we must be emptied. At some point, if we do not pour ourselves out for others, we will not need to be filled again. And this is the emptiness which is so metaphorically appropriate for us today.
Many of us nowadays fill our cups with all sorts of things. We fill our cups with convenience and the gadgets and gismos of our current age. We fill our cups with worry about what others might think or what our neighbors might say. We fill our cups with cars and trucks and boats and hobbies and busy-ness so that we don’t feel empty inside. And we fill our cup with idols of celebrity, fame, other people’s lives, or purported heroes/role models.
Until our cup is so over-filled with all of life’s idols and procurements, that our cup cannot fit in anymore of what is important. Our cup is so filled with the go, go, go of our modern civilization, that our cup has no room for friends, family, or even God. And in being filled with everything else, instead of being satisfied, we actually feel even more empty inside.
Certainly, right now in our lives we feel empty. Our church sits empty, our place of work perhaps sits empty, our favorite restaurants where we used to go sit empty. And we feel the isolation drying our souls and closing in on us; making us not only feel empty, but scared and without hope. In these times of isolation and physical distancing, we feel emptied of all normalcy and having not enough to quench our thirst for social interaction.
But if we look more closely, we can see how our lives are not actually empty at all. Yes, we are isolated, but we now have a chance to take our empty cup and fill it at a different source. Not our source of all of what we think is right and true, but at God’s eternal foundation who emptied Himself out for us; Jesus. And here are three things to fill our emptiness as Jesus would fill us:
You see, Jesus emptied of himself to fill us, so we could empty of ourselves to be refilled again and again and again at the fount of eternal springs, at the feet of our Savior, at the very table and cup of the blessing of our God. And when we come and are filled there; however empty we may feel; however tired and lonely and afraid we may be; when we come to fill ourselves at the cup of the New Covenant, we are never alone, we have nothing to fear, and are filled with life beyond anything we could ever imagine.
I know, normally I would talk about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, or how he rode a donkey not some brilliant stallion, or how he was still misunderstood among the people as merely a prophet, not the full measure of God whom he was. But this season, today in particular, I think it more important to focus on what Jesus did despite his feelings of emptiness, his loneliness, his despair for Jerusalem and its wayward ways. What Jesus did out of his love for us when he in all his humanity, decided to ride that donkey into Jerusalem and empty himself upon a Cross.
Jesus, God incarnate, could have very easily said, “Nope!” He could have very easily said, “This is too difficult.” He could have very easily maintained God-like distance from us, and not interacted or sacrificed for us. But Jesus did the exact opposite in emptying himself for us. He gave up everything; everything earthly, everything comfortable, everything that comes with fame or fortune, everything that the world values as powerful; and emptied himself by pouring out a portion of God to fill our cups, our tanks.
Trust me when I say I understand your feelings of emptiness. My cup is running quite dry, my tank seemingly on empty, but even an empty cup is filled with air; and even when we think our existence is without hope, our lives without purpose or meaning, all the things we used to love gone or changed; let us remember that we are filled with God’s Holy Spirit.
I wonder what I would have done…sitting there on that hill above Jerusalem. I wonder if I could have emptied myself for complete strangers, for criminals, for sinners, for the lost and weary, for the outcast, for the weak, for the poor, for disciples which do not understand, for the foreign peoples, for the stones that are rejected and the ones who must be freed; if in my empty state, I could empty myself even more…The easy answer is that God is perfection and none of us could do that, the more convicting question is to ask ourselves what Jesus is calling us to do when he rides into Jerusalem to never ride out again!
When my gas tank in my car was running on fumes and I thought I would be stranded alone forever in the wilderness; I prayed and prayed and prayed I would make it to the next gas station. In fact, every time my tank is on empty, I pray and pray and pray that I will make it through this wilderness and not run completely dry. But even when I did run completely empty, help always came. Sometimes through the strength of walking miles to get gas, sometimes through the kindness of a stranger, sometimes through little miracles of making it through beyond scientific explanation; but help always came…and in my emptiness, in our emptiness, we are filled once again.
Perhaps there is a reason for our current emptiness, perhaps we should think about where we are filling ourselves up, perhaps it is time we look at that city so full of people, our lives so full of false idols, our existence so full of everything but God; and realize that we are not truly empty when we fill ourselves with the self-emptying, all-loving, humbled perfection, and eternal grace of Jesus Christ, Amen