March 22, 2015: Why Have You, God, Abandoned Me?

Posted on : Mar 19th, 2015 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Most Christians – and many non-Christians – can probably quote that verse from memory. While most of us know the phrase and have an idea of what the word “forsaken” means, it is still a pretty archaic word which is seldom used in our vocabulary today. “Forsaken” means: abandoned, ditched, discarded, deserted, rejected, disowned, cast off. Try screaming Jesus’ often quoted phrase using these more contemporary words.

My God, my God, why have you ditched me?

My God, my God, why have you discarded me?

My God, my God, why have you deserted me?

My God, my God, why have you rejected me?

My God, my God, why have you disowned me?

My God, my God, why have you cast me off?

Those are pretty painful words. The authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Mark have those as the last words Jesus utters from the cross.

That’s not a very hopeful way to die – especially for “the Child of God.”

There is also something interesting in the way this story is told across the three common Gospels. Mark and Matthew include these words from the cross. Luke doesn’t. Luke substitutes these words: “God, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Luke is obviously trying to show that Jesus never doubted God’s presence with him, even at the time of his death. Do you think that’s true? Do Jesus’ words weaken his faith in God?

When the gospels differ in substance on important themes, such as this, one of the things Biblical scholars look at is what the other gospels say, those that didn’t get included in the Bible (or “Canon,” as it is officially called). The Gospel of Peter, for example, quotes Jesus as saying: “My power, my power, you have forsaken me!” If even the non-canonical gospel includes these words of Jesus, my bet is Jesus really uttered them. Besides biblical scholarship, common sense also leads us to believe that.

Have you ever felt that God has abandoned, ditched, discarded, deserted, rejected, disowned you or cast you off? If you have, you’re not alone. If you haven’t, you probably will at some time in your life.

There are many times in our lives when pain, grief, heartache or brokenness overwhelms us. It’s often in those times that we feel God has ditched, deserted, forsaken, or rejected us. But is that true or is that something we have been taught about who God is and how God is present in our lives?

Barbara Brown Taylor, one of America’s most admired preachers and spirituality writers, released her latest book last year on Good Friday. It’s called “Learning to Walk in the Dark.” Time magazine featured her last year on their cover with the words “Finding God in the Dark.” What she had to say is not what you might expect, but you may find comfort and hope in it.

Most spirituality seekers spend their lives pursuing enlightenment. But this Easter, Taylor…is encouraging believers and nonbelievers not only to seek the light but to face the darkness too… something that 21st century Americans tend to resist. For the past four years, Taylor has explored wild caves, lived as if blind, stared into her darkest emotions and, over and over, simply walked out into the night. The reason, she says, is that contemporary spirituality is too feel-good, that darkness holds more lessons than light and that contrary to what many of us have long believed, it is sometimes in the bleakest void that God is nearest.

It is easy to forget, amid “the Easter lilies, the sound of trumpets and bright streaming light” she notes, that the Resurrection happened in a dark cave. “God and darkness have been friends for a long time,” Taylor says. “It’s just one nighttime story after another – amazing.”

Taylor points out that darkness was often the setting for humanity’s closest encounters with the divine.

  • God appeared to Abraham in the night and promised him descendants more numerous than the stars.
  • The exodus from Egypt happened at night.
  • God met Moses in the thick darkness atop Mount Sinai to hand down the Ten Commandments.
  • The apostle Paul’s conversion happened after he lost his sight.
  • Jesus was born beneath a star and resurrected in the darkness of a cave.

“For many years,” (Barbara Brown Taylor says) “I thought my questions and my doubts and my sense of God’s absence were all signs of my lack of faith, but now I know this is the way the life of the spirit goes.”

(Time Magazine, April 28, 2014, pgs. 36-41)

This Sunday we will focus on how we are like Jesus, when we feel forsaken, abandoned, ditched, discarded, deserted, rejected, disowned, or cast off by God.

The writer of the Gospel of Luke may have thought he was “protecting the credibility of Jesus and the sure-ness of faith,” by not including Jesus’ cry of anguish, but in doing so, he cut out the heart of the Gospel message. God or no God, Jesus is as fully human as you and I.

Lenten Blessings to you,

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

 Matthew 27: 32-33, 38-50

As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry Jesus’ cross.

When they had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him. Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jewish people.’

Then two bandits were crucified with Jesus, one to his right and one to his left.  

Those who passed by derided Jesus, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!   If you are the Child of God, come down from the cross.’

In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Jesus, saying, ‘He saved others; yet he cannot save himself. If he is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.   He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if God wants to; for he said, “I am God’s Child.” ’

The bandits who were crucified with Jesus also taunted him in the same way.

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘This man is calling for Elijah.’ At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.’

Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.

 

Leave a Reply