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“Passing Through The Shadows!” 1 Corinthians 11:23-34 Key verse(s): 26:“‘For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes’.”
“Smile and the world smiles with you! Cry and you cry alone.” Walking through life with a smile on our faces is something to hope for, isn’t it? Life it far too short to be all gloom and sadness. Like the old song says, if you smile you draw crowds. When you cry you draw isolation and loneliness.
From an early age on we are taught not be be gloomy. There’s something about being around a person who is sad that simply repels us. Most of us will resort to nothing less than our best efforts to either avoid the gloom or change it somehow. Recently I returned home from a long day at the office dragging pretty much everything that I had encountered that day behind me. As I slipped in through the garage door into the entry way, so slipped in the meeting that had not gone well, the invoice that turned out to be more than I had planned, and the angry telephone call I had taken. Plop, they landed on the floor right beside my briefcase. Somehow I knew they were still there because even when I tried to refocus my thoughts on home and family, all I could think of was the office. I guess it was pretty evident on my face as I walked into the kitchen, shuffling across the floor in my slippers, mostly looking past my children and wife. They could see it written all over my face. “Had a bad day, huh?” “Yeah, the worst!” And I plunged into a lengthy dissertation on the woes of the day; moving back and forth between diatribe and regret. They had had a great day but now, as they listened to my woes, somehow their days had not been as good as they had thought. In fact, it wasn’t long before they were able to match woe for woe with the “king of woes”. My sorrow had magically become their sorrow. My sorrow like a drop of black ink in water slowly spread its inky murk throughout their clear and sunny day. “Gloom and doom, meet happy and promising!” Like that bothersome gab that grabs your hand and makes it serve as a sort of freeway for their emotions, gloom and doom simply won’t let go until they have poured themselves into you completely.
Carry our sorrow and laying it on others is not a very good idea. Yet, how can one be happy all the time? Isn’t there ever a place for sorrow, at least to balance out the brilliance of the light from time to time? In northern Chile, between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, lies a narrow strip of land where the sun shines every day! Clouds gather so seldom over the valley that one can say, “It almost never rains here!” Morning after morning the sun rises brilliantly over the tall mountains to the east. Each noon it shines brightly overhead, and every evening it brings a picturesque sunset. Although storms are often seen rising high in the mountains, and heavy fog banks hand their gray curtains far over the sea, Old Sol continues to shed his warming rays upon this “favored” and protected strip of territory. One might imagine this area to be an earthly paradise, but is far from that! It is a sterile and desolate wilderness! There are no streams of water, and nothing grows there.
We often long for total sunshine and continuous joy in life, and we desire to avoid the heartache that bring tears to our eyes. Like that sunny, unfertile part of Chile, however, life without clouds and even an occasional downpour would not be productive or challenging. But though showers do come, they will also end, and the sun will shine again. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5). (Our Daily Bread.)
Total sunshine in life? Let’s face it. That is never going to happen. In fact, there will always be a proper place for sorrow in life. I’m not talking about the impertinent spreading of your own personal gloom on people. Nobody needs that. No, I’m talking about the godly sorrow that leads to repentance and forgiveness of sins. When Jesus passed the cup to his disciples and broke the bread between his fingers at that last communing supper together, His soul was filled with a kind of sorrow that was truly appropriate and necessary for the moment. His soul was, as Martin Luther put it, “empty, single, and hungry”. His soul was prepared for the task ahead and He was demonstrating to His disciples how that sorrow could and would turn into joy. But first it must pass through the shadows and dwell in the darkness of sin. Here the soul must weep and by that invisible cleansing be able to behold more clearly the land of sweet light and happiness that awaits it if only it can endure the sorrow for but a short time longer. Yes, there is a time for sorrow when we rightly park our joy and walk some distance away from the light toward the shadowland where we find the source of that nagging that is constantly beating upon the doors of our souls. Here we too shall find the emptiness that makes preparation for being filled.
Chuck Colson, of Prison Fellowship, tells about a prison in Sao Do Campos, Brazil, which was turned over to two Christians more than twenty years ago. It is run according to Christian principles. The prison only has two people on its staff. The inmates do everything else. Each prisoner has another to whom he is accountable. Every prisoner goes to chapel or takes a course in character formation. Each prisoner is assigned to a volunteer family outside the prison that makes him a part of their family. The rate of return for crimes after release is 4% compared to 75% in other Brazilian prisons.
When Colson visited the prison to discover the secret of their success, a prisoner took him to what at one time was an isolation cell. When they got there, the prisoner asked Colson if he wanted to go in. He said, "Yes." When the door opened, Colson saw a beautifully carved wooden figure of Jesus hanging on the cross. The prisoner pointed to the figure of Jesus and whispered, "He’s doing time for all of us."
Greg Slayton is the CEO of ClickAction.com. He says, in the busy dot.com world in which he now succeeds, he is exhausted by the frantic pace. This is how he describes where it has left him in relationship with others: "The sense of isolation is a curse. It is the curse of 10,000 acquaintances. You find no one to talk to when things go really bad."
There were very few of these
Here’s a fun exercise for you to do when you have time. Use your concordance and find all of the scriptures from Acts to Revelation in which you find the word “together” and see what early Christians did “together.” Here’s a sampling: Meeting together. Praying together. Sharing material thi...
“Graffiti With Meaning!” Matthew 14: 22-24 Key verse(s): 23: “After he had dismissed the, he went up on a mountainside by himself to prayer. When evening came, he was there alone . . .”
“Isolation is not all that bad . . . it just depends on who you spend it with.” At first glance this seemingly contradictory phrase sounds a bit trite. But, when you examine it closely, it may contain more truth in just fifteen words than many volumes on the psychology of isolation can ever reveal. The author is unknown but I do know that it was a man and that he probably enjoyed camping and had spent a lot of time, perhaps alone, around the old campfire. The reason is, I discovered this wisdom some years ago scrawled in pencil on a the walls of a men’s vault toilet in a national forest camp grounds. I was so taken by it, that I went back later to copy it down in a notebook.
Most such “lavatory treasures” are there for purposes other than wisdom. However, this one struck me differently. I smiled as I read and reread it. Finally, I became intrigued. I began to search for the meaning that lay beneath the surface. Was the author of this graffiti glorifying self? Was he so possessed with his own image and being that he preferred his own company to that of anyone else? It gave me pause to think. I began to feel that the message had a deeper meaning, one that I was supposed to discover; one that I was supposed to understand and apply to my own life.
Of all the places to pray I had never imagined a vault toilet to qualify as one. But, when you think of it, it does provide the quiet and solitude that our Savior so often searched for when He needed to spend time alone with His Father in prayer. I guess after all that not all isolation produces paranoia, suicidal thoughts or aggressiveness. Not when it is time spent in the company of the Holy Spirit. It really just depends on who you are sharing your time of isolation with!
MOVING INTO DIVERSITY
Newer neighborhoods rate best on diversity, report says
Fast-growing cities in the West and South - which drew residents to
neighborhoods built after passage of fair-housing laws - are among the US’s most racially diverse, according to a Census Bureau report. Still, it found that many urban centers remain highly segregated, with blacks more likely to live in isolation than other ethnic groups. The top areas in each category:
1. Orange County, Calif.
2. San Jose, Calif.
3. Norfolk, Va.
4. Tampa, Fla.
5. San Diego
4. St. Louis
5. Newark, N.J.
SOURCE: Associated Press. 12/06/02 News Headlines from The Christian Science Monitor.
Joni Eareckson Tada, who was paralyzed from the neck down while still a teenager, wrote, "You don’t have to be alone in your hurt! Comfort is yours. Joy is an option. And it’s all been made possible by your Savior. He went without comfort so you might have it. He postponed joy so you might share in it. He willingly chose isolation so you might never be alone in your hurt and sorrow.
-- Joni Eareckson Tada, Christian Reader, Vol. 32, no. 2.
In evangelical individualism people think of their personal relationship with God in isolation (“Just me and Jesus”) and forge their destiny apart from any church authority. While holding relatively low opinions of history, traditions, and the church, they turn to the experiences of self and isolate themselves from their brothers and sisters in the faith. True spirituality is perverted as it becomes a quest for inner stimulation rather than growth in biblical knowledge and the application of truth in community. ...
Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person. This can happen even in the midst of a pious community. In confession the light of the gospel breaks into the darkness and seclusion of the heart. The sin must be brought into the light. The unexpressed must be openly spoken and acknowledged. All that is secret and hidden is made manifest. It is a struggle until the sin is openly admitted, but God breaks gates of brass and bars of iron (Ps. 107:16).
Since the confession of sin is made in the presence of a Christian brother, the last stronghold of self-justification is abandoned. The sinner surrenders; he gives up all his evil. He gives his heart to God, and he finds the forgiveness of all his sin in the fellowship of Jesus Christ and his brother. The expressed, acknowledged sin has lost all its power. It has been revealed and judged as sin. It can no longer tear the fellowship asunder. Now the fellowship bears the sin of the brother. He is no longer alone with his evil for he has cast off his sin in confession and handed it over to God. It has been taken away from him. Now he stands in the fellowship of sinners who live by the grace of God and the cross of Jesus Christ… The sin concealed separated him from the fellowship, made all his apparent fellowship a sham; the sin confessed has helped him define true fellowship with the brethren in Jesus Christ.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 112-113.
Sermon Central Staff
Here is how Max Lucado rates us as a society:
"Call us a fast society, an efficient society, but don’t call us a personal society. Our society is set up for isolation. We wear ear buds when we exercise. We communicate via e-mail and text messages. We enter and exit our house with gates and garage door openers. Our mantra: 'I leave you alone. You leave me alone.'"
(Source: "Out Live Your Life, page 54. From a sermon by Michael McCartney, Experience the Spirit in Service, 4/14/2011)