03-16-2014 Finding Blessings: Blessed When Life Is Hard

Before I forget, let me invite any FCCers who have at least a little time available this Saturday to come join us for our all-church work day at the church building.  This isn’t our annual “Spring Cleaning” day, per se-- this is a time to touch up and work on all the little dings and dents that the building has picked up over time.  As with so many things in life, we kinda get used to the less-than-perfect things that we don’t get a chance to fix right away.  That scratch over here, that dent over there--if we don’t work on it immediately, it soon drifts into the corners of our eyes, and we no longer see it.  Over time, the whole place can look dinged and dented, and though we don’t see it, others do--and though we may not see it consciously, it still affects our basic self-image of our church on a subconscious level.  So please come join us, even if you can only spare an hour or two this Saturday morning.  Just let the church office know that you’ll be there, if you could.

Of course, all of what I just said there about the building is also true about our personal, spiritual lives as well.  We can dismiss this mistake here or that lack of priority there, and then become so used to them that they fade into a dingy background to our lives.  I would encourage all of us to stop and take some time to do a “walk-through” in our lives and look for anything that needs some spiritual spackling and touch-up.  Don’t let it get away from you.

In two weeks, we’ll also be hosting a seminar led by former hospice chaplain Linda McKinney on grief and consolation.  Many of us struggle to know how to work through grief--and almost none of us feel comfortable really knowing how best to console others who are going through grief.  So please consider blocking out time on the morning of April 5 to join us for discussing something that all of us will be faced with, and very few of us are prepared for.Actually, we talked a little bit today about that in our message this week, as we began a new series, looking at the Beatitudes (that’s just a fancy name for the list of blessings that Jesus talked about at the beginning of His famous “Sermon on the Mount”).  At first blush, the first two don’t make a lot of sense--they seem to be saying, “Happy are those who are sad...”

But what Jesus is really saying in that first one is that you can have more joy from being humble and being in the presence of God than you can by being “happy” in your own pride.  If you got everything you ever wanted in this world (and no one ever does), you’ll still only be happy as long as all of that lasts.  Talk with any Lotto winner or mega-celebrity, and they’ll tell you that the excitement is only a fleeting thing--and the let-down after the excitement is gone is tragic.

In the same way, that second Beatitude is saying that those who only bounce across the shallow surface of life can have only a shallow comfort, but those who sense the deep pain that comes from realizing that something crucial has been lost--that the world is essentially broken--can ever experience the deep comfort that comes from God’s consolation.  

Now, that applies itself in personal as well as expansive ways.  From a personal standpoint, if you keep yourself to shallow relationships, then the worst that you’ll ever have is a mild bruising when you lose those people--but the most you’ll ever have is a shallow happiness when they’re around.  But if you develop rich, meaningful relationships, then you open yourself up to aching grief if and when you lose those people and it feels like a part of you has been ripped away--and yet, the deep, abiding joy that the relationship created, the crucial meaning that those people had added to your life, and the blessing of diving deep into God for consolation is well worth the pain of their loss.

From a more expansive standpoint, if we understand that depth of love and connection yields tremendous richness, and yet the potential for tremendous mourning when that love and connection is severed, then we can begin to understand the mourning that God has when He looks at the children whom He created to be in relationship with, whom He loves enough to die for, and sees how little we’re interested in loving and having a connection with Him.  The Garden He created for our joy and health is choked with our wastes, the marriage relationships He created for our joy and health are scarred by our selfishness and bitterness, the Bible which He created for our joy and health is derided by non-Christians... and left on a dusty shelf by too many Christians.  God has a healthy sense of mourning when He looks at this world--a sense that something crucial has been lost.  He was willing to die to bring consolation to those whom He loves.  What about you and me?

If our hearts beat with God’s heart, shouldn’t we also have that same sense of mourning for this world?  And shouldn’t we, as ambassadors to this place, have a passion for reaching out to it with the truth of where true joy comes from?