The Sun Will Rise

(11 minute read – Sermon from 6/16/2016)

If you’ve been listening to the news this past week, you’ve likely been reminded of all that’s wrong in this world. Where the beauty and hope and love you started believing in seems to have been swallowed up in the recent tragedies that have swept our nation.

So tonight I’m hoping to do more of a poetic or liturgical sermon. Where the first half of the sermon will be on the brokenness of this world, and the last half will be on the beauty in this world.  I will start big (with the world) and zoom in (to ourselves) and then end it by starting small (with ourselves) and zooming out (to the world). So let’s first take a look at the brokenness that surrounds us… 

There’s the brokenness of this world, where we see: 

  • The disparity between the rich and the poor
  • The billions of men, women, and children who have no access to clean water or enough food
  • The storms that destroy entire communities, homes, stores and businesses, taking countless lives
  • The diseases that seem to choose people at random and with a vengeance; taking lives long before life was meant to be over
  • The sad reality that there are more slaves today than at any time in history

And yet we read in Scripture that…
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Then there’s the brokenness of systems:

  • Where the poor become poorer while the rich become richer
  • Where women continue to be objectified and sexually assaulted, where rapists are defended and their victims are blamed
  • Where people of color and the LGBTQ community are seen as ‘less-than’ and disposable
  • Where living in debt is the bane of existence for so many families and virtually impossible to escape, adding to their already mounting stress and anxiety

And yet we read in Scripture that…
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Then there’s the brokenness of people – 

  • Where men continue to use and abuse and violate women
  • Where women compare and compete and let insecurity sabotage relationships, their happiness and contentment
  • Where children bully other children, leading children to self-harm, attempt suicide, and seek retaliation

And yet Scripture claims that…
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23)

And then there’s the brokenness of ourselves:

And yet we read in Scripture that…
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23)

There are many days where the brokenness of this world weighs heavily on me… so heavy that it’s hard for me to go through the day without tears fighting to be released. Where my greatest desire is to curl up in my bed and sob until I can sob no more. To grieve all the pain and loss and injustice that has ever been dealt to any human for all of time. To cry out for justice, not humanity’s version of justice, but GOD’s version of justice where restoration and redemption and wholeness is part of his plan.

Injustices and tragedies like:

  • the mass shooting in Charleston at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church
  • the rape of the unconscious young woman at Stanford, where the safety of her rapist was legally defended and protected over the safety of every single woman the rapist will come across in his life
  • the attack on our LGBTQ family in Orlando, Florida
  • the two year old boy who was snatched by an alligator before his parent’s eyes

It’s on these days… where the injustice seems too great. The brokenness too impossible to repair. The divisions too big to unite.

It’s on these days… where God’s justice seems too late, his return too delayed, his presence too distant.

It’s on these days… I want to call it quits. Be done with this thing called humanity and beg for God to return and make right all that is so very, very wrong.

It’s on these days… where I feel like a prophet seeking, yearning to bridge that gap… where part of me lives in this broken and painful world but another part of me knows of the world that’s coming, the world that is possible. And so here I stand – in the gap – praying and prophesying and preparing for that world to come…trying to make the gap between these two worlds smaller, to play some role in this broken world’s restoration and redemption.

It’s on these days that I NEED to know, NEED to believe, NEED to be reminded that God IS aware, that God IS active, that God truly knows what he is doing…

It’s on these days that the dark of the night seems to never end…when evil seems to get the final say… when it seems that the sun will never rise.

Until I hear the Spirit whisper, “The sun is coming… the sun WILL rise… and with that sun, a new day, a new dawn, a new beginning arrives…for a chance at being a new humanity.”

The new humanity Jesus gave his life for…

  • where he tore down dividing walls,
  • where he offers peace where there is chaos,
  • unity where there is division,
  • wholeness where there is brokenness,
  • acceptance where there is rejection….

And he promised us this wasn’t some nice fluffy idea to think about and dream about… but a reality that is possible through the empowerment of his Spirit! We have been called and equipped to bring his Kingdom to this earth… by being the new humanity he’s called us to be!

It’s on these days where my heart, mind, spirit and soul are heavy, oh so heavy, with the tragedies and brokenness of this world that I cry out for the verses we’ve been reading tonight to be true…

The words from Lamentations 3:22-23:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Because if the Lord’s love DID cease, if his faithfulness DID come to an end, and if his mercies DID run out… then all hope would be lost. Chaos would break loose and all order would be gone. Death, at that point, would most certainly seem preferable to life.

But God’s love DOESN’T cease. His faithfulness will NEVER stop. His mercies will ALWAYS be new.

And because of his love and faithfulness and mercies, we have more than enough to be filled and complete and whole. And because of this fullness and wholeness and hopefulness, we are able to do something about the brokenness of this world, the injustices that run rampant.

We DON’T have to just wail and weep and live in despair, though there is definitely a time and place to wail and weep and despair. But we can also DO something. We can make change. BECAUSE of the fact that God is enough, he is our Source, our everything, and he never runs dry, we can keep coming back to him, again and again, and ask him to fill us – individually and corporately – and to heal us, to guide us, to use us, to unite us and to strengthen us.

In Amos 5:14, God beckons us to:

Seek good, and not evil, that you may live;
And so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said.
Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate.

The world may be broken, WE may be broken, but we don’t have to operate out of our brokenness or our insecurities or our fears. We don’t have to resign to broken ways. We can seek good; we can establish justice right here, right now, in our communities, in our homes, in our workplaces. We can live our lives making this world a better place, for you, for me, and especially for those who suffer the most in this world.

We can refuse to go with the flow, do what everybody else does, and live how everyone else lives. We can refuse to stay in our comfort zone and choose to step out of the boat and onto the stormy sea because we see Jesus OUT THERE. We go because we see Jesus and he beckons us to come, to wake up out of our routine, to rethink the way we live and do life, and to see what he’s calling us to do.

Glennon Doyle Melton’s one of my favorite bloggers and authors and overall human being on the planet. But here’s a snippet from one of her blog posts that I felt like resonated with my message tonight:

I don’t know much. But I know that each time I see something heartbreaking on the news, each time I encounter a problem outside, the answer to the problem is inside. The problem is always me and the solution is always me. If I want my world to be less vicious, then I must become more gentle. If I want my children to embrace other children for who they are, to treat other children with the dignity and respect every child of God deserves, then I had better treat other adults the same way. And I better make sure that my children know beyond a shadow of a doubt that in God’s and their father’s and my eyes, they are okay. They are loved as they are. Without a single unless.

So it starts with us. We can do something about the brokenness in this world.

In Amos 5:21-24 God says,

I can’t stand your religious meetings.
I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice – oceans of it.
I want fairness – rivers of it.
That’s what I want. That’s all I want.

I love this passage because it reminds me that God cares about justice, he cares when tragedies like the ones I mentioned tonight occur in this world, he too feels the weight and weariness of this broken world.

God has equipped us with everything we need to get started, to make this world a better place, to bring his Kingdom into its fullness right here and now.

And as Glennon Doyle Melton said above, it starts with us.

This is where we NEED dreamers and believers, writers and creators, artists and singers, healers and helpers. Where we bring our full selves to the table, refusing to let fear and darkness have the final say. Where we push back in the name of love and for love and choose to be brave when it’s tempting to cower in fear.

Where we remember the beauty that is in us and surrounds us. That we push back against the lies that all of this is for naught and reclaim the truth that you and I have a job to do, a beautiful job, where we seek to connect with one another and create loving and life-giving relationships, so that the enemy can get no foothold between you and me. Because there is no us and them in God’s Kingdom, for we are one new humanity! So let’s start with us…let’s reclaim the beauty that still exists in this world.

Beauty of ourselves –

  • We are not only Image-Bearers of the blessed Trinity, but we are FILLED and empowered with the Holy Spirit. So we are not lifeless bodies of flesh but we are living and breathing temples brimming with the power and presence of God himself.
  • Which gives us inherent worth; we don’t have to hustle for it; we don’t have to earn it; we’ve already been given it! So we are free to live in the freedom and fullness of who we are because God made us and delights in us and that’s enough. Nothing can take away or add to that. We are enough. So yes, we can declare that:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Beauty of people –

  • Together, you and I and all of us living out our identity as Image-Bearers, are a force to be reckoned with, a force of love and peace in a restless and violent world. Together we can create communities that flourish with love, hope, healing, creativity, dignity, safety and beauty. Where we can experience moments of heaven by being rightly-related to one another, as we were meant to be since the beginning of time. So yes, together we can say:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Beauty of systems –

  • When we are operating out of our true identities in Christ, and when we are rightly-related to one another, we are then manifesting God’s Kingdom in its fullness! We don’t need systems when we have the Spirit!
  • Systems can’t replace right-relatedness. Systems can’t replace the Spirit.
  • But systems CAN be used for good, for justice, for connections, for support. As long as this world is broken, we need systems in place to help bring healing and support to others. But never forget that systems cannot replace relationships. We need each other to make it through this world and to make these systems work for good. So together our lives can declare that:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Beauty of this world –

  • In the midst of the brokenness of this world, we can still find so much beauty.
  • Beauty when the sun rises, when the sun sets, when seasons change
  • When children run and laugh and play and say such hilarious and brutally honest things
  • When babies coo and smile and think you’re the greatest thing in the world and think everything in the world is so great
  • When we see people coming together to help in the aftermath of tragedies, new communities being made as a result, new friendships formed and old barriers abolished. 

Yes, yes indeed we can claim the truths found in Lamentations 3:22-23:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

We can be honest about the brutalities of this world without giving up on the beauty in this world.

How do we do that? By doing it together, by pushing back against the darkness and the brokenness and creating space for more beauty and hope and love in this world. When we remember that We Belong To Each Other and that we are in this together and that God has not left us on this earth without hope. Why?

Because his love NEVER ceases. His mercies are new EVERY single morning. And he is faithful to the point of giving up his life in hopes that we might find ours. Let that truth light up our dark nights as we remind ourselves that the sun will rise. The sun will rise indeed. And we are part of that uprising. An uprising of love and hope and peace and healing and justice and restoration. WE are the body of Christ, and with the Spirit, WE bring healing and hope to the corners of this world, to every single person in need of it. Starting and ending with us.

As Glennon posted recently,

When the world feels evil,
We must be good.
When the world feels terrifying, we must refuse to be afraid.
This is why love is a revolution. Because it’s not easy.
Because choosing love in the face of danger is an act of will.
Danger on earth is inevitable.
Fear is a choice. Fear and love move in opposite directions.
Fear shuts down and closes – Love begins again and opens, opens, opens wider and still wider like a smile through tears.

So let us choose love, let us choose courage, let us be good and kind. For we know that the darkness WILL end and the sun will rise once again. As John 1:4-5 says, “His breath filled all things with a living, breathing light – light that thrives in the depths of darkness, blazing through murky bottoms. It cannot, and will not, be quenched.”
Let’s pray.

God, thank you for not giving up on this world, for not giving up on us. And thank you for the truth that everyone brings something beautiful to this world, that we are ALL equipped to make this world a safer and more beautiful place for all your children. Together we commit to push back against fear, to not retaliate violence with more violence. Instead, we choose to follow in your footsteps, the footsteps of our Prince of Peace. Please minister to the families and individuals who are grieving and hurting from the recent tragedies in our nation. Please release your Spirit upon us, give us the courage to speak up and speak out against violence and be a voice for reckless and healing love. Because you are our God and you are love, and we desperately need more of you in our world today. And just as your Son rose from the dead, may we remember that night will come to an end, and the sun will rise again. Hope is here and it’s here to stay. Thank you for being you. For being a God of love. We love you so much. Amen.

[Image: Theophilos Papadopoulos]

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