On the cross Jesus uttered a fascinating sentence. We find it in Matthew 27:45-46, Jesus said, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?”
If you have been in the church for even a short time you have heard this quoted. Perhaps you have even heard sermons on the subject, but have you thought about that text and what it means about Jesus and what it means for us who find ourselves attempting to preach on it this weekend?
Here is Jesus, whom the Father calls God in Hebrews 1:8. That Jesus who is fully God is also fully connected to humanity. A connection so strong that he yelled out the cry that we also find in Psalms 22. A connection so strong that he could feel forsakenness.
Yes, Jesus felt the strength of the curse that comes from sin. For as we are told in Galatians 3:13, connected to Deuteronomy 21:23, cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. Yes, Jesus decided to take that curse on himself. But that curse ripped from his lips this anguished cry of forsakenness that we see here. We preachers love to preach about that on Sunday morning.
It is hard to find a Black preacher who has not uttered the words “EEEEEAAARRRRLLLLLYYY Sunday morning,” and that is good. But if you ain’t felt Friday evening, your bellowing about a Sunday morning shout will have an emptiness.
Without Friday evening, our Sunday morning shout will not connect to the people as it should. Now I am not attempting to preach a sermon on the incarnation or on the deity of Jesus Christ in this article, but I do want to talk about preaching that gets to Sunday morning without coming to terms with Friday evening. Because, truth be told, Friday evening is where some of your congregation is living during the week.
In fact, some of us know that feeling of forsakenness, but we don’t want to talk about it, we don’t want to come to terms with it, for fear. We get up and preach a tame sermon. It is as if we talk about God’s power to get us past the stubbed toe we had this week, when someone has been shot this week.
It is as if we talk about God’s ability to help us keep our temper under control at work when someone has lost her job this week. It is as if we talk about how God scraped together money so that we can go on a vacation when someone has lost their house this week.
It is as if we fear that our God won’t go into the hell where some live. Does God have something for the rape victim? Does God have something for the family of the murdered man? Does God have something to say to those who live in areas where their children seem destined to failure and defeat? Does God have something for the truly forsaken?
Now, as I look at this scripture, I must admit that we don’t get an apologetic. We simply get a statement of forsakenness. That tells me there ain’t nothing wrong with feeling forsaken. It also tells me that there may not be an answer right now. Even if there is an answer, we may not be in a position to hear it right now.
So what does this mean to preachers? It means that it is alright to allow your own pains and hurts to show. If Jesus could, then we can. It means that if we will go into the depths of human pain, we may have to sometimes recognize that there may not be an answer that we can give in a nice 30-minute sermon.
It means that just because we don’t know why, doesn’t mean that we can’t allow for pain to be articulated. In fact, it means that there is power in just articulating your pain. I am reminded of the old Negro spiritual, “Sometimes I feel like a Motherless child, a long way from home.” or “Deep river, my home is over Jordan; deep river, I want to cross over into camp ground.” The Black slave knew that sometimes you just had to sing from your pain. Sometimes you just have to have some “Lamentations.”
There may be a time to shout, but there is also a time to cry. And you have a God that is with you while you are shouting and while you are crying. In our rush to get to the “shout,” we skip Friday evening. And as long as we do that, we take something away from Sunday morning. Sister and Brother preachers, I know you have been there on Friday evening. Let people see Friday evening. And then when you talk about Sunday morning, it adds greater power to that proclamation.