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When The Movement Feels Lost

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The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for one to bear the yoke in youth, to sit alone in silence when the Lord has imposed it, to put one’s mouth to the dust (there may yet be hope)...

When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.” He answered them, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!” After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.”

  • These last couple weeks have been hard.
    • At this point, we don't need to say what, just where. Buffalo, Uvlade.
    • And we add to that reports from the SBC.
    • The church can so often make the joy and happiness the primary goal of Sunday. It's like a great sunny day at the beach with quiet waves. It's when we have no doubt of the Easter moment.
    • But, in the midst of general sunshine, we've been caught in a riptide. And if we haven't learned how to swim out of it, we're destined to drown... and when we've lost spiritual life, the movement feels lost.
    • So at some point, we need to faithfully learn how to swim in deep ends, perpendicular to riptides that might catch us and sweep us from shore.
  • Two strokes to consider:
    • Lamentations: Don't try to swim against it.
      • Lam tells the story of the collapse of Jerusalem - what felt like the end of the promise starting in Egypt and in the wilderness.
      • With all of the voices in judges and prophets in the Kingdoms, and yet so little change, it's easy to see how the speaker here sees this destruction as God's punishment.
      • The speaker continues to explore their grief over what has happened.
      • In the chapter before, the recommendation from the speaker is that there needs to be a never ending torrent of tears, all the time.
      • But then, in the passage today, we see a balance take shape, especially the last verse. That even in the midst of grief, in the dirt, even pathetically, there may be hope.
      • The author here neither has an overoptimism, nor gives in entirely to despair. Instead, he works within the grief to find whatever even whispers of hope are about.
      • Taking the two together, it creates a new angle that moves the speaker out of the riptide - moving perpendicular and not against it.
    • Mark - Float and yell for help
      • But sometimes we're even too tired for that.
      • When that happens, the recommendation in a riptide is to stay afloat and yell for help.
      • And when that happens, I can't imagine what a lifeguard has to be thinking. I'm sure there's a lot of satisfaction to be saving someone, but underneath, there has to be a little minor annoyance and frustration, but still, you wouldn't know it at the moment of rescue.
      • Here, we have a father fearful for his child.
      • And Jesus here is really at one of his most annoyed. And there's this continued dialogue between the father and Jesus elicits an honest shout - a literal translation would be I trust, help my untrust. And Jesus does.
      • And here's the interesting question we're posed at the end, in a passage that is really ambiguous about who is talking to who: when disciples wonder why they couldn't heal the boy, and Jesus says that it can only come out through prayer - I wonder whose prayer it is? If we follow the story, it's when the prayer of the father is exclaimed that the healing begins.
      • Which then perhaps Jesus' annoyance becomes one of unwillingness to just float and yell for help.
  • Once we're out of the riptide, we headed back to shore.
    • We rest on terra firma for awhile, but I imagine for most of us, if we get caught, we'll eventually head back to the water, but perhaps a bit more wise and aware.
    • If we get caught again, we're more able to not let it exhaust us
    • We might help someone else avoid getting caught
    • And, certainly, we're stronger and better for it.
  • So I'll be honest with you personally, that I've been caught in a riptide for a few weeks. I'm supposing most of you have been too.
    • On Thursday, I confided with a colleague that I wasn't sure if I was capable of preaching Good News on Sunday. I've had enough.
    • I've had enough of people believing that skin color is a reason for violence. Had enough of weapons of war being turned against children in what should be a safe place - no parent should worry those worries
    • And, I've had enough of the church of Jesus Christ, meant to be example of the Holy Spirit's movement in the world become a safe haven for the weapons of power and unmitigated control turned on women and children
    • At once, I felt the riptide consume me - and I want to fight it. I want to yell and scream and wear myself to exhaustion against all of this.
    • But, maybe, the trick is to lament first. To bury faces in the dirt and acknowledge the evil it is. And even still shout to God in the fear and pain of the moment to a Jesus who is so tired of self-assured "thoughts and prayers" that will not make miracles, but the prayer of the honest soul caught in a riptide.
    • So, today, on this solid rock which we now stand, we recover, we heal. We're a little wiser.
    • But we have to go back out swimming. We have to keep moving. There are too many people flailing right now to just stand on shore watching those too far out all their lives and believing they're waving and not drowning.
    • But there is hope in the dust. There is healing in the unvarnished cry, all enacted on this high ground.


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