Thursday, April 18, 2019

Sermon: "Rock of Ages: Our Brokenness", Numbers 20:2-12/Matthew 16:13-19 (April 18, 2019--Maundy Thursday)

(This sermon is the sixth in our Lenten Series, "Rock of Ages", in which we're exploring how rocks can symbolize different characteristics of God and of ourselves.)


Have you ever felt like the world was broken?

I remember being a kid and believing that life was fair. It wasn’t an active conclusion that I arrived at; I just assumed that “fair” was the default setting of the world. That as long as you were honest, did your best, and worked hard, everything would always be okay. Jesus loves me, God is good, the world is fair—these are the “truths” that shaped my childhood.

But as I grew up, I began to better understand what really motivates humanity. Justice and mercy are not the universal standards that I once thought they were. People are often far more motivated by greed, self-interest, and fear than by compassion and care for others. Our leaders don’t always have our best interests at heart. Hard work doesn’t always lead to success. Kindness won’t guarantee that others treat me the same. The world that I see reflected around me now is a far cry from the world that I once believed God intended for us. Our world is profoundly, irreparably broken—WE’VE broken it—and it terrifies me.

Have you ever felt like YOU were broken?

I have. Some days are better than others, but I never quite feel entirely whole. At times, my soul feels so weighed down that I can almost physically feel the cracks in my skin caused by all the things wrong with me. In those moments, I wonder if I’m not actually just a pile of “me-fragments” held together by sheer stubbornness.

The reasons for my brokenness are many. My sin is a big one; it’s hard to forget about all the things I’ve done or been complicit in that have pushed me away from God. My depression and anxiety is another—my brain doesn’t work properly on its own, and it makes me feel less strong, less capable, less human. Then, of course, there’s the mistakes, the self-doubt, the shortcomings, the imperfections…you know, the human parts of being human. What makes YOU feel broken?

Have you ever considered that maybe “broken” isn’t the same as “useless”?

God created this world, and God created each one of us, and God called all of it “good”. Knowing that we would sin, knowing that we would hurt one another, knowing that we would deny and betray Christ…God still called it all “good”. God has declared, time and time again, through scripture and through our experiences and through God’s actions in the world, that we are broken AND we are beloved.

In fact, God doesn’t just love us in spite of our brokenness; God USES our brokenness to bring about the heavenly kingdom on earth. God often choses the lost, the rejected, the forgotten, and certainly the sinful to be God’s greatest messengers. Moses struggled with his own brokenness when God first called him. “I’m not good enough; I don’t know enough; I’m a terrible speaker…surely, anyone else would be a better choice!” But God wouldn’t be deterred. And God was right—Moses went on to become one of the greatest leaders in the history of the Jewish people.

But in order for God to work through us and our brokenness, there’s one thing that’s non-negotiable: we must trust God. Not because God demands obedience like some sort of tyrant, but because it’s impossible for God to work through us if we don’t trust God enough to let God in. The one thing that ultimately undid Moses wasn’t anything that he had thought made him unworthy. It was his impulsive decision not to trust God to provide water for the people that kept him from entering the promised land.

I get it, it can be the hardest thing in the world to trust God, especially with the things that matter most to us. The Israelites were without water in the middle of the desert—the lives of the people were at stake. Moses must have been frustrated and afraid. In his anxiety, he struck the stone rather than simply speaking to it as God had commanded. And in that one, small moment of weakness, he forfeited his opportunity to enter the promised land.

In contrast, Peter did very few things right. He was the “screw-up” disciple. He was as broken a human being as they come. And yet, when Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter readily answered, “You are the Messiah, the Christ.” And for this open confession of faith, borne not out of human evidence but out of Peter’s trust in God alone, Jesus proclaims him the rock upon which the church will be built. If we considered only Peter’s faults, this would seem a shaky foundation indeed…but it’s through Peter’s trust in the midst of his brokenness that the Church finds its footing.

If we want to be a rock that supports the church, we don’t need to be perfect. We don’t need to be whole. We just need to trust that GOD is, and that we will be enough—even in our brokenness. It can be tempting to want to give up on broken things, especially things as broken as this world and ourselves. But God doesn’t see brokenness as a liability. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have this sacred meal—“This is my body, broken for you”—or this precious story that we recount year after year. Again and again, God works through broken things to create something new and wonderful and perfect in their brokenness.

It’s times like these, like when Jesus gathered with his disciples for his last meal with them—when things feel the darkest, the most hopeless, and we most acutely feel the brokenness of the world around us—that our trust in God becomes most important. It’s not only what will carry us through our worst moments, but it’s the way that God enters into our lives and into the world to make the biggest difference. Trust that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome it. Trust that brokenness is not a dead end…it’s just another stop on the road towards salvation. We’re all broken…but that cannot, WILL not stop God’s plan to redeem the world. In the words of Leonard Cohen, “There is a crack, a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.” Trust God enough to let God’s light shine through your brokenness…and don’t be afraid to let the world see. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment