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Just Like Us

He…[was] fully human in every way. –Hebrews 2:17

Several weeks ago, while visiting a church out of state, I heard a sermon that has had me thinking ever since (watch it here). Now being a preacher for more than 40 years, that’s a high compliment for a sermon.

Specifically, it highlighted Jesus as a human being—nothing unusual there. Orthodox Christians have always maintained that Jesus is both God and human. But in my experience, as a practical matter, the emphasis rests on Jesus as God (“who being in very nature God”-Phil. 2:6). We believe that is crucial to our hope.

The sermon was “When Uncertainty Comes.” And it specifically related it to Jesus. What that sermon did was remind me that to forget Jesus is “fully human in every way” (Hebrews 2:17) misses an important part of the good news about him. So as we journey through the season of Lent, I’ve been trying to grasp some of what that might mean.

I’m acquainted with human struggles as are all of you, some of us more than others. I have observed suffering but thankfully not experienced very much. My wife, Alana, knows pain as a constant companion and has for a good part of her life. Others experience hunger, fear, persecution and every imaginable human misery.

What we need to know and what the Bible tells us is that Jesus knew it all personally. Everything it meant to be human he experienced, with one exception—sin. And “because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested” (Hebrews 2:18). I don’t know your personal struggle—uncertainty, physical pain, emotional turmoil, betrayal or questions about life, about God, or anything else. Even death, he knows. And because he knows, he can help. And because he loves, he will help. Maybe he will deliver you from the struggle but maybe deliver you in the struggle.

Just call for help.

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His Eye Is On the Sparrow

In the two weeks since the earthquake in Haiti we have heard so many words–sorrow, anger, courage, hero, fear, weary, shock, miracle, unbelievable.  We have heard explanations, promises, assurances, warnings.  Some of them have been wise, some foolish, some sinful and evil.  In these words there have the words from God, but also from fallible humans, and some straight out of the mouth of Satan himself.  Sometimes it is hard to know which are which.

The Bible helps us put things in perspective.

First, we are reminded that we cannot rid the world of suffering.  Someone has said, “This is a world where robins die, and sparrows, and people: the ones we love, the ones Jesus loves.”  The Peanuts characters put it this way:

Charlie Brown: “I have a new philosophy…’Life is like a golf course.’
Snoopy: “And ‘a sand trap runs through it.'”

The Biblical view says that God’s original creation has been damaged.  It is defaced, messed up. And earthquakes happen.  We can endlessly debate the philosophical and theological issues here, but the reality is clear.  This is a world where people, innocent people, get hurt.

However, in the midst of this, God is paying attention.  God listens, God sees, but most importantly God cares.  In the Old Testament God promises Soloman and the people just that–My eyes and my heart will always be here. (II Chron 7:16b-NLT)  Jesus says that even the fate of sparrows is not lost on God (Matt. 10:29).  And in the defining text of the Bible He says, For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only son. (John 3:16)

God is not just an observer, but, in fact, is in the midst of all this—in the Salvation Army relief worker, World Vision, UMCOR and scores of other Christian groups and individuals.  But, also in secular groups—the Red Cross, Chinese disaster teams, American military units—any one there with the will to help is doing God’s work whether they know it or not.

Finally, hope is intrinsic to the Christian message.  Along with faith and love, hope makes up the triangle of the Christian’s attitude.  A pastor dying of cancer took a leave from his church.  He was able to return and in a sermon he said, “We want to worship God in this church, and for our worship to be real, it doesn’t have to be fun, and it doesn’t have to be guilt-ridden.  But it does have to be honest, and it does have to hope in God.”

Hope is the future tense of faith.  Though we cannot deny what God has done and is doing, we must keep our perspective.  In our lives and those around us, much of  the Gospel is promise of what is yet to be.  But God is here, God is at work and is preparing a better place for us.  It is called heaven and without it, disasters/tragedies cannot be reconciled with a loving God.

Sisters, brothers keep the faith.