Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sermon March 22, 2017 Lent 3

Title: The Seven Words of Christ! The Fourth Word: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (cf. Mk. 15:34)
Text: Matthew. 27:46
Readings: Psalm 22:1-2, 11-24, Corinthians 4:5-10, Matthew 27:45-49
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Sermon Hymn: #420 Christ, the Life of All the Living Vs1, 5,6,7

“If I had my whole life to live over again, I don't think I'd have the strength.” 

Flip Wilson.

Those words were spoken by the late comedian Flip Wilson. As we think about life and specifically our own life … would we ourselves have the strength to endure again if we were given the opportunity to relive our own lives?

Abraham, who was told that he would become a great and powerful nation, had much to endure.
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. Gen12:1b-2

So Abram who was 75 at the time left with his nephew Lot and the land of Haran to Bethel, the Negev and finally to Egypt because of a famine.

In Egypt Sarai is taken into Pharaoh’s household because Abram told her to say that she was his sister so he might be better treated but finding out his lie Pharaoh casts him out. Abram separates from his nephew Lot and then has to rescue him and finds himself being blessed by Melchizedek the King of Salam saying:

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

Abram has two sons, one born of the slave girl Hagar who bore Ishmael, and one from Sarah who is the son of promise Issac promised to Abram from the three heavenly visitors including the preincarnate Christ at his tent. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah followed, Hagar and Ishmael are sent away and Issac is older now … he is a young man. 

Much has happened to Abram who is now called Abraham and much more is to come.

God calls.

22 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 

The promise is to be the sacrifice.


At lunch one day in a hotel with her son Reggie and his new wife, Gloria, Alice Vanderbilt asked whether Gloria had received her pearls. Reggie replied that he had not yet bought any because the only pearls worthy of his bride were beyond his price. His mother then calmly ordered that a pair of scissors be brought to her. When the scissors arrived, Mrs. Vanderbilt promptly cut off about one-third of her own $70,000 pearl necklace and handed them to her new daughter-in-law. "There you are, Gloria," she said. "All Vanderbilt women have pearls."

Today in the Word, September 18, 1993.

While $23,000 in 1923 was a lot of money and comparably speaking today would be valued at around $325,000 it is a still small portion of the great wealth, and pearls she had, and much of that wealth she still retained. What Abraham would face and was asked to do … was of significantly greater value and price.

“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Abraham goes, and all the while the knowledge of what he was about to do goes with him. He takes the boy and two others, he cuts the wood and on the third day – a significant number of days and time in the Bible – they arrive for the sacrifice.

“Stay here with the donkey; [Abraham says] I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”

The forsaking of what God had promised was not lost on Abraham. He believed and trusted what God had promised. Death would come … but the son would live. Abraham knew that when he said:
“I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”
God sends.

At another time and in another way a son is given. The promise from an angel was given to another mother Mary who is called, “you who are highly favored – and told that she will be with child and that this child conceived in her will be called the son of God.” Luke 1:28-35

It is hard to imagine how Abraham felt.
God had kept his promise and given him a son; God had said that he would be a great nation and this son was the beginning of that Nation; Abraham knew that God can fulfill and keep his promise even if Issac … his son would die ... because God in his omnipotence (all powerful) can raise the dead.
Abraham knew … but he had to feel loss none the less … I know those who have lost a son or a daughter and they feel great loss and even at times feel forsaken, and the pain remains. 

But, what about Issac; how did he feel? Certainly he must he have felt abandoned by his father as he was bound to be the sacrifice? Certainly he felt forsaken by God as his own father prepared the knife to kill him … the sacrifice that his father Abraham said God would provide.

Mary … too knew what Simeon had said:

“Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

As she beheld her son on the cross she felt the sword piercing through her own soul thinking maybe to herself, “How can this be? Or why must this be?” At times in our own lives we too feel loss and abandoned. May be too that God has forsaken us as we struggle with, sickness, sin and even death.
Why me, may be the thought?

Why not me?


As I mentioned from this past weekend in 1988 my mother was fighting cancer. She was at the University of Michigan hospital and as I visited her and we talked and she said those very words.
Her words were not lost on me as she wrestled with her own dying from cancer. In her grief and suffering I’m sure she had her own private time of reflecting and feeling forsaken by God and afflicted but so too did Jesus. His suffering was real, his pain was real, his purpose was real and his death would be real. The forsaking by the Father was real as well as God the Father turned away from his only begotten son who had become the image of sin … having the sins of the world placed upon him. This was a sin that consumed his son. It was a death he would die alone.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What Christ endured brought rescue. What Christ endured brought peace. You have been not forsaken because of one who was forsaken for you. 

By his stripes you are healed!

In the name of the Father, + Son and Holy Spirit


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