I had lost touch with Him. I was praying and meditating on Scripture and nurturing the relationship the best I knew how…but His image and voice were faint. I couldn’t see Him. I couldn’t hear Him. I couldn’t find Him.
Reason? Carla’s sister’s cancer. Her name is Paula and we love her very much and she has been battling this satanic disease for 3 long years. Last week we found out the most recent chemo treatments haven’t been working and the end is probably near. And I was angry. And frustrated. And nothing made sense. I’ve seen lots of tragic death in 3 decades of pastoring but this time I couldn’t find my way. And I couldn’t find the Jesus who promised to never leave me and to always be with me even when the path was black as pitch.
And then I found Him. I found Him in His body. I walked into church last Sunday morning, unaware of how lost I was feeling…until Rita put her arm around me and I started to weep and laid my head down on the table as Phyllis and Elaine and Pam prayed for me and our family with tears and passion and then told me “Hey, let’s not do normal church today, Pastor…lay your sermon down, just be a brother and a human being and let’s just call the people to pray.”
A few moments later, I found myself in the embrace of Ben and Chris and Joe and Dan and Tony and Joel all whispering in my ear, “Love you, bro…we got you, we got Paula” – and then Carla walked in and the brothers and many other sisters pulled her into their arms and whispered the same care into her ear. After the singing – I truthfully didn’t sing much – I stood in front of the community and took a risk: “Carla and I are a mess today. Our sister Paula seems to be dying from the cancer we have begged God to take away. I am angry. I know I am your pastor and I’m not trying to put too much on you, but the truth is, today my faith is faltering. But I am here. We are here. We always ask you to show up in your brokenness…so we are here with you in our brokenness. I have no sermon in me to preach. We’re going to read some of the Book and then we are going to pray and then take the Eucharist before we go home.”
And that’s what we did. Without commentary – I read Psalm 23 and Isaiah 61 and Luke 1 and John 11 and Romans 8 and Revelation 21 and then back to John 14…and it was more powerful than I could have imagined. In fact, I think I began to find Jesus that morning in the simple reading of Scripture – as I simply read the text, even with a heart full of doubt and sadness and anger – I think His face began to take shape, His voice began to grow stronger. The Logos of God coming alive in and through the Logos of God.
But mostly, it was in His body – the body of Christ – where I found Christ last Sunday morning. After I closed the Bible I sat down next to Carla…and prayer began. All around, folks began to pray…for themselves, for one another, for their loved ones, for unspoken needs too deep and too painful to even utter aloud. Some came to the front of the church to be prayed for by fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who for sure had their own needs but that morning chose to stand in the gap for others, washing their feet with tearful cries of intercession to a God and His Son who at times, in the pain, seem difficult to find.
And some of the brothers and sisters came to me…and to my best friend Carla. Some just sat with us and wept, arms draped around our shoulders, hands squeezing our flesh as if to say, “I’m just here. I have no words. But I’m here.” Others prayed beautiful prayers of compassion and intercession, begging our God to show up for Paula, her husband Gene and their family – for Carla and for me – to make His presence known because we desperately needed Him and the way was so dark and we were struggling to find Him.
Marc and Cindy and DJ and Keith and Audrey and Catherine and Stacey and Jim and Shauna and Sue and Stephanie and Hope and Mack and Kevin and Ron and Albert and the brothers and sisters I mentioned earlier and so many others I’m not mentioning because our eyes were closed some of the time and some folks just couldn’t get to us because they were praying for others or because there was just so much love…so much presence…I want you all to know that I couldn’t find Jesus for a moment but last Sunday morning, I found Him again…in you. Each of you. All of you. The body of Christ.
And then Carla and I walked to the front and ate the body of Christ and drank the blood of Christ – and mysteriously…even miraculously, we walked out of the building full of Christ. Nothing had changed in Paula’s circumstance. God still hadn’t answered our prayer the way we wanted Him to. But even with the darkness still all around…in and through His body – God’s people, our brothers and sisters – we found Jesus, once again.
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