So often during this past year, I have heard people angst over feelings of abandonment: abandonment by friends and family, by their employers and co-workers, by political leaders, by the world at large. What is already overwhelming abandonment, despair, and loss is often compounded by a devastating sense of abandonment by God….if there even is a god….much less a god who cares.
Folks are heard crying out from the depths of physical, emotional, and spiritual darkness.
‘What happened to all the ‘holy promises’ we hear from the pulpit every Sunday?’
‘Only a fool could believe in God!’
‘We are good people trying so hard to do the right thing! Why us? Why now?’
‘Look at what is going on all around us and tell me there is a God!
These same issues of abandonment were present over 2000 years ago in an occupied area rife with political upheaval, poverty, disease, and religious oppression – a microcosm of the world – called Galilee. God seemed to have just checked out.
Religious leaders were co-opted by the occupiers; a small price to pay in order to retain control of the populace.
The common folk were grasping for an alternative; someone to overturn the status quo and put them in charge of meting out retributive justice.
Messiahs were a dime a dozen. Crucifixions of those revolutionary leaders were common with their corpses on public display, left to rot as a deterrence to other wannabe messiahs. Mess with Rome and this was the fate awaiting you!
At every turn the nation of Israel felt abandoned; every morning there was another overwhelming challenge – another loss to suffer – another burden to bear.
Where is God?
Is there even a god?
Only a fool would believe in a God you cannot see
A God Who apparently doesn’t care.
Only an April fool…..and that is exactly what I am.
An April fool who begins again at the beginning anytime doubts are raised – by me or anyone else – because frankly we all doubt from time to time, if we’re honest.
Actually questions have been raised and answers processed since the beginning of time concerning the what, why, where, who, and how of God.
Think of Psalm 8, particularly vv. 3-4: a psalm that begins by asking questions.
Even before the Hubble telescope and its forays into deep space, folks were overwhelmed by the enormity of the cosmos – even that small portion they could easily see with the naked eye.
I once spent the night in the Moroccan desert and couldn’t believe all the stars. I understood why the ancient psalmist felt overwhelmed not only the stars, but all the planets orbiting those stars! It’s terrifying to contemplate how huge everything is and how small I am! It’s easy to question how we can possibly matter and feelings of abandonment often kick in.
Yet the psalm says I do matter – you matter!
….How foolish…..April foolish!
Questions are also raised about why we suffer; why the only ones who seem to come out on top are the ones who know how to game this thing called life while the rest of us struggle.
We feel abandoned! Life isn’t a joy, it’s a pain!
Still, scripture says we are not abandoned, we are not left to struggle alone. Isaiah 43:1-4.
As for times of loss and mourning, scripture teaches that ‘joy comes in the morning.’ Psalm 30:5b, 11-12
It all sounds so foolish….April foolish!
Scriptural – religion – just an opiate for the masses as Marx would one day say.
Still, I am an April fool!
I am an April fool because of the miraculous events that happened over 2000 years ago:
The life of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Mary.
The death of Jesus, labeled King of the Jews.
The resurrection of Christ the Messiah, Son of the living God!
Jesus – the living proof that we are not abandoned!
Throughout His life, Jesus cared for all that God had made – healing, comforting, feeding, teaching, including, correcting, celebrating, mourning – all within the context of human companionship.
Over His thirty-something years of earthly lifespan, Jesus shared our life with all its struggles, marginalization, poverty, persecution, hunger, grief – as well as all its joys and thanksgivings, love and compassionate mercy. God the Son cares – God gets us!
Then, at the time of His trial, Pilate challenged Jesus’ kingdom authority and Jesus was clear:, His kingdom was not of this world. Jesus is the king of heaven and earth – of all created things – no exceptions! Still, Pilate rejected the truth and put the label on the Lord’s cross.
Jesus suffered the death of the lowest of criminals – again proving that no one is beneath Christ’s offer of love and new beginnings – no one is unworthy of His love and forgiveness.
Even when crying out in desolation and momentary sense of abandonment in the face of injustice as He ‘breathed His last’ on the cross, Christ died as He lived, in total obedience to God, His Father – for us!
Nothing but a holy fool, right? Abandoned! Dead!…..
The resurrection of the Christ changes everything!
The foolishness of human assumptions of abandonment
transformed by the joy of God’s wisdom! Isaiah 55:8-9
You may have heard the quip: ‘the stone was rolled back not so Christ could get out, but so that we could see in.’
But what difference does it make if we see inside or not? Nothing if that is as far as it goes!
Following the crucifixion, the disciples seemed depressed, abandoned, terrified of what all this meant for them and their future. Had THEY been made fools? Sure, Jesus was a great teacher – a great companion – but now He was not just dead, but missing!
Seeing the empty tomb wasn’t enough.
So, Jesus appeared to them again and again, allow them to touched His hands and side ‘just to be sure.’ They no longer felt abandoned!
They were April fools coming to life! resurrected in a sense themselves:
resurrected into new life, new hope,
forgiven of their pasts, free to live into Christ’s future!
free to share the good news of resurrection life with the whole world
Who but God would have devised such a plan for the salvation of the world?
Only the God of the cosmos, Who will never abandon us, will always love us and tirelessly lead us into new and unending life. John 3:16.
Christ is raised! That means everything He said is true! He loves us, remains with us, will never leave us! We are forgiven and free to live in the world for Him!
Now who’s an April fool? I am – praying you are, too ! And to God be the glory! AMEN.