Posted on Tue, Apr 12, 2011
Rev. Jim Merritt April 10, 2011
A Season of Overcoming Sorrows Old and New
Rev. Jim Merritt
April 10, 2011
One night during my junior year at Stetson University I received a phone call. It was my father who said, “Jimmy, you’re granddaddy is in the hospital, it’s really bad and they don’t think he’s going to make it through the night.” I said I’m getting in the car now.” He said, “No don’t, it’s not safe for you to drive up there by yourself this late at night.” I agreed to wait. You’ve heard me talk about this grandfather before, my mom’s dad who was the Freewill Baptist Preacher. The last time I spoke with him, just after my parents moved to Texas he told, me, “You’re mama and daddy’s gone off and left us and I just want you to know that I’m here for you, and if you need a little money, I’ve got some.” I knew he didn’t have any money and I knew he would have found some if I really needed it. Early the next morning my phone rang again, it was my dad again and he said simply, “Your granddaddy’s gone.” I packed my car and headed to Alabama. On the morning of his funeral, my grandmother came out of their bedroom and offered me an old tattered book. I looked at it and on front it said, “Pastor’s Manual.” She said, here, you’re the only one he would have wanted to have this because you’re out telling the good news.” I was unable to respond. I was depressed for at least a year. On several occasions I picked up the phone to call him and then remembered that wouldn’t work. I saw him all over town in department stores, on the Stetson campus, in my apartment, at the grocery store. At least I thought I saw him. That year was a time of deep sorrow for me and our family has never quite been the same. Sorrow sucks. It is debilitating, it is all-consuming and it takes a long time to process. And yet, I know this one thing; as I walk and talk with Jesus, even sorrow can be overcome.
I believe it is important for us to embrace a real Jesus. I can only speak for myself when I say that cleaned up pretty Jesus with flowing light brown hair and perfect skin and blue eyes with a perfectly coordinated blue and tan ensemble, that white Jesus that is simply not true to who Jesus really was, does not work for me at all. I need a Jesus who knows what it is like to get dirty. I need a Jesus who knows temptation in every way that I know temptation. I need a Jesus how has to overcome temptation, a Jesus who has to overcome barriers and expectations that people place on him to told him back. And this week I need a Jesus who knows what it is like to have his heart broken by the death of someone that he really loved. I need a Jesus who knows what it’s like to cry in public, to weep, to be scolded by his friends when he’s tried to do his best. I need this real Jesus today who experiences deep and heartfelt sorrow…and overcomes it. Are you with me?
A couple of weeks ago, we read the other most famous verse in scripture, John 3:16. Today we have its companion, “Jesus wept.” Weeping is important for us. First of all, when Jesus wept, he proved for us that he really was both fully divine and fully human. Jesus felt sorrow and he cried. Remember that, in your moments of sorrow and especially when you continue to deal with old sorrows, Jesus felt grief, Jesus experienced sorrow and Jesus cried. When you cry, dear ones, Jesus cries with you. You are never alone. Jesus knows how you feel, not because he’s God, but because he has been right where you are. Jesus wept and Jesus overcame sorrow, and so can you. Not only can you, but you will. Why? Because that’s what happens when we embrace the fact that we never experience sorrow alone, that we never walk alone and that Jesus who has been where we are promised us a season of overcoming…sorrow. This is your season. Will you overcome it?
We did not read the lectionary passage from Ezekiel this morning and I do want to refer to it. Have you ever felt like your world was caving in? Have you ever felt like you were used up, dried up, withering on the vine with nothing left to offer? That is what Ezekiel was referring to when he discussed dry bones. And I have very good news for you this morning. When the world has treated you badly, when circumstances and even failures have drained you dry, when your bank account is empty and your emotional resources have dried up, even when you are bone tired and weary, this God, Adonai, our God can make dry bones dance. God can take all the circumstances that have worn you out and give you the ability of overcome them. Jesus can take your sorrow and turn it into Joy unspeakable, full of Glory and Adonai, God can take your dry bones and set them to dancing. (SHOW PICTURE).
Remember the words of Proverbs 17:22Proverbs 17:22 “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones,” and Proverbs 15:30 “The light of the eyes rejoices the heart and good news refreshes the body,” Proverbs 3:7 “Do not be wise in your own eyes; revere YHWH and as a refreshment for your body.” turn away from evil. It will be a healing for your flesh.” Remember what God can do. Remember that Jesus has experienced sorrow and the grave from both sides and remember that this is our season of overcoming sorrow in the name of Jesus. This is our season of overcoming sorrows old and new because God is showing us all over again what we and God can do together. We can overcome sorrow. We can find release. We can get our Joy back and we can overcome whatever comes our way. This is our season to embrace it and this is our season to overcome it in Jesus name!
Look to Jesus. “Lazarus, come out.” Notice that he did not address Lazarus as a dead man. He did not say, Lazarus, come back to life. He did not go to the body of Lazarus and breathe the breath of life back in to him. He spoke to him as he would speak to one that was alive and could hear and he said, “Lazarus COME OUT.” There’s power in coming out. There’s power in coming out of all kinds of closets. There’s power in coming out of the grave for Lazarus as it foreshadows what would happen with Jesus in just a little while. There’s power in coming out as the people of God. And my sisters and brothers, there is wonderful power in coming out of sorrow. There’s a wonderful experience on the other side of overcoming sorrows old and new. The experience in living in the glow of God’s love that overcomes temptation, that overcomes barriers, that overcomes expectations that have been used to hold us back. And there is life on the other side of sorrow. There’s life in the name of Jesus who has come so we can live life more abundantly. There’s life with a God who wants to bless us in ways that our cups are overflowing and running over in our laps. This is our season of overcoming sorrow. This is our season of overcoming whatever has held us down. This is our time of preparation for that glorious celebration of Easter that will happen all around this planet in just two weeks from now.
I have one question in closing this morning. Will you be an overcomer in the name of Jesus? Will you overcome all these things that have held you back and will you overcome sorrow, too? I’m an overcoming in Jesus name. Say it with me; I am an overcoming in Jesus’ name. I am an overcomer. Hallelujah. Now let’s all commit to going out from this place and making those words true. Let us all be overcomers this week and from this point forward and let’s be ready for what God is about to do. Amen? AMEN.