Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Lutheran Church, Toowoomba – Date: 19 March 2017
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Suffering and Joy
Jesus had gathered disciples around him (for instance the brothers Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John), then launched his saving work, and the ministry went really well. You couldn’t get a better write-up of what happened. I read to you from the book of Matthew in the Bible:
Matthew 4:23-5:1: Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him.
Criss-crossing Galilee, Jesus attracted large crowds from everywhere – from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan – and his fame also spread all over Syria, a neighbouring country. Wherever he went, Jesus was welcome to preach in the synagogues, the Jewish places of worship, where he preached the kingdom of God with power, healing every disease and sickness among the people.
Jesus rocked and (with all of this going on), as one of his disciples, how do you think that you would have felt? Riding such a wave of success – drawing large crowds like a magnet – you could be forgiven for thinking that you had arrived. The job was being done. The kingdom was being preached and demonstrated and people were on board. Hooray – hallelujah – and now sit back and relax a little – bathe in the glow of such ministry.
How about us here at Living Grace? How are we feeling about our work? Have we in any sense arrived? You cannot compare us to Jesus’ success in Galilee, but we also had a large crowd at our last Renewal Conference just outside of Adelaide. And we were a little amazed that a small church like ours could have such an impact. (The news of the preaching and miracles at the conference spread across the nation, at least among Lutherans.) [On Friday, the South Australian Bishop David Altus called a meeting to review Lutheran Renewal and renewal in general. The meeting was attended by the following pastors: John Kleinig, Noel Due, Michael Dustchke, Joel Cramer, Wayne Kerber, Nigel Rozenzwieg, Steen Olsen and Luke Spilsbury. And Luke reported that the whole group thought that “generally there has been lots of positive things come out of the conference in Mt Barker – more than expected and really nothing negative.”]
For two years now, we publish a national renewal magazine and are involved in starting monthly renewal services in Adelaide right now. This year, as a church, we have been growing again (the third year in a row), and God is in this place. It is so common to hear weekly testimonies of healings (e.g.: at the combined healing night, one man had been healed of sleep apnea; Nadia had a healing for low iron levels and painful left shoulder that had been dislocated [nine-week-old William praying]), miracles and conversions (e.g.: a miraculous wind had lifted Maddy from her seat when an altar call was given). This is not bad – maybe not quite in the same league as Jesus’ ministry in Galilee – but – compared to the beginnings of our church – this is great.
Therefore, maybe like the disciples around Jesus when the ministry in Galilee took off, we feel that we have arrived somewhere. “Hooray” – “hallelujah”! After all the hard years, why not sit back and relax a little – bathe in the “glory” of what happened and so many testimonies?
[However, I also know that some of us feel a little weary at the moment, because you are not bringing renewal to a resistant church denomination without being in spiritual warfare. For instance, the Lutheran Women magazine published Tatjana’s testimony and, in response, six pastors from Victoria published a public “pastoral letter” against her: “… in view of the dismay and confusion that the article has already and will continue to cause to some people in our midst, we feel that a pastoral response is required.” The following is just one of their points: “At this point, one cannot go any further without highlighting what surely has to be the stand out feature of the article, which is the absence of reference to Baptism.” And I also quote this statement from their “pastoral letter”: “If we feel that in our congregations there is little of the work of the Holy Spirit to be felt and seen, we should once more allow the words of the Apostle to imprint themselves on our minds: no one, truly no one, can confess Jesus Christ as Lord, no one can speak the confession of faith as found in the creed, and make that confession his or her own, without the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does work powerfully in our midst, during our services as well, even when we fail to take Him seriously.” Weariness can be a real feeling in warfare.]
Jesus went up on a mountainside and the disciples came to him (up the mountain), gathering around him while the large crowd was filling the plain below them. Oh, it must have felt so good to sit next to Jesus with a commanding view of so many people that were keen on belonging to them. They had made it. At least, there was breakthrough everywhere.
Only then, Jesus began to teach them, the disciples, and he burst their bubble. I read to you from Matthew 5:2-10, the beginning of what is called the Sermon on the Mount:
Matthew 5:2-10: And Jesus began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Instead of relaxing a little and sitting back satisfied (for just a moment) with the large crowds at the foot of the mountain, the disciples were to be in a completely different state of mind. Jesus called those among them “blessed” that were “poor in spirit”, those “mourning” and “hungering and thirsting for righteousness”.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted… Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Jesus called those among them “blessed” that had no sense of having arrived yet. Blessed were those that knew that this was only the beginning.
I am not sure that this was a popular beginning to Jesus’ sermon. Who wants to be defined by weakness – words like “poor in spirit”, “mourn”, “meek”, “hunger and thirst”, and “persecuted” – when the kingdom is being preached with power and the sick are being healed and unclean spirits must depart? Why insist on remaining desperate in a season when success is obvious?
Friedrich Nietzsche, a straight-shooting philosopher, spelled out bluntly what many people think:
Friedrich Nietzsche: The Portable Nietzsche, Selected and translated by Walter Kaufmann, New York: Penguin Books 1982, p570-571: What is good? Everything that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power. What is bad? Everything that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome…
The weak and failures shall perish… What is more harmful than any vice? Active pity for all the failures and all the weak: Christianity…
Christianity has sided with all that is weak and base [always mourning, hungering and thirsting], with all failures; it has made an ideal of whatever contradicts the instinct of the strong life to preserve itself [such as feeling blessed when persecuted]; it has corrupted the reason even of those strongest in spirit by teaching men to consider the opposite – being poor in spirit [original: supreme values of the spirit as something sinful, as something that leads into error – as temptations].
Friedrich Nietzsche: The Portable Nietzsche, Selected and translated by Walter Kaufmann, New York: Penguin Books 1982, p618-682: That everyone as an “immortal soul” has equal rank with everyone else, that in the totality of living beings the “salvation” of every single individual may claim eternal significance… such… cannot be branded with too much contempt…
The poison of the doctrine of “equal rights for all” – it was Christianity that spread it most fundamentally. Out of the most secret nooks of bad instincts, Christianity has waged war unto death against all sense of respect and feeling of distance between man and man, that is to say, against the presupposition of every elevation, of every growth of culture; out of the ressentiment of the masses it forged its chief weapon against us, against all that is noble, gay, high-minded on earth, against our happiness on earth. “Immortality” conceded to every Peter and Paul has so far been the greatest, the most malignant, attempt to assassinate noble humanity.
And let us not underestimate the calamity which crept out of Christianity into politics. Today nobody has the courage any longer for privileges, for masters’ rights, for a sense of respect for oneself and one’s peers – for a pathos of distance. Our politics is sick from this lack of courage.
The aristocratic outlook was undermined from the deepest underworld through the lie of the equality of souls; and if faith in the “prerogative of the majority” makes and will make revolutions – it is Christianity, beyond a doubt, it is Christian value judgements, that every revolution simply translates into blood and crime…
Not only does it sound unpopular to remain “poor in spirit,” Nietzsche accuses Christianity for corrupting the happiness of the strong in this life. The human instinct is to feel power, gain power, pursue self-preservation and triumph over others. This is what is advancing human life, not feeling pity for everything that is base and weak. According to Nietzsche, Jesus (seemingly) prefers his disciples (“poor in spirit”) to remain passive, wimpish and the butt of all jokes, even in impossible situations that (obviously) demand something different, a (seemingly) healthier response:
Matthew 5:39-41: But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
Why put up with this? Why let yourselves be slapped – twice? [But is this really a passive response that is born out of weakness? It seems easier to snap and hit back.] This morning, how are we to feel about Jesus, ourselves and our ministry and calling in life? Jesus thinks that he is describing a blessed state when we are “poor in spirit” and “hungering and thirsting for righteousness” but this sounds intense and wrong somehow. It would be far nicer, at least feel nicer, to be satisfied with what we have achieved and feel good about the crowds at the bottom of the hill.
However, it is precisely for the crowds that we need to remain in “mourning”, because their lives need changing, and I do not just mean an altar call for personal salvation. [In my understanding, being “poor in spirit” and “hungering and thirsting after righteousness are not just for one’s personal faith development but are aimed at the wider community.] Did you notice how keenly Nietzsche was aware of the political consequences of the Christian faith. Siding with the weak – “mourning” with them, “hungering and thirsting for righteousness” with them – because they have “equal rights” – possessing the same “immortal soul” and possibility of “salvation” as all people – brings down the “aristocratic outlook”, mitigates against masters’ rights and privileges (the exploitation of the poor). There is a political component to the Christian message and ministry.
Jesus did proclaim the kingdom of God, the rule of God, which would “disciple nations” (Matthew 28:19) [“teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded his disciples” (Matthew 28:20)]. And Jesus, ministering as he did in Galilee, announced to the oppressive and corrupt rulers of the people: “Therefore, I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit” (Matthew 21:43). Jesus was going to do more for the crowd than give them hope for eternal life. Things would already change here on earth and, as Nietzsche rightly observed, having a broken heart for the weak – what Jesus called “blessed” in his Sermon on the Mount – was a threat to the established order, the “aristocratic outlook”. [The non-violent approach would help in building bridges with the rulers and encourage them that it was safe to surrender power.]
Walter Brueggemann, a pastor and scholar, made the following observations:
Walter Brueggemann: The Prophetic Imagination, Minneapolis: Fortress Press 2001, 2nd edition, p4: I suggest that the dominant culture, now and in every time, is grossly uncritical, cannot tolerate serious and fundamental criticism, and will go to great lengths to stop it.
P7: Karl Marx had discerned the connection when he observed that the criticism of religion is the ultimate criticism and must lead to the criticism of law, economics, and politics… And the functioning of that society testified to the rightness of the religion because kings did prosper and bricks did get made.
P9: The program of Moses is not the freeing of a little band of slaves as an escape from the empire, though that is important enough, especially if you happen to be in that little band. Rather, his work is nothing less than an assault on the consciousness of the empire, aimed at nothing less than the dismantling of the empire both in its social practices and in its mythic pretensions.
Walter Brueggemann: The Prophetic Imagination, Minneapolis: Fortress Press 2001, 2nd edition, p12: The grieving of Israel – perhaps self-pity and surely complaint but never resignation – is the beginning of criticism. It is made clear that things are not as they should be, not as they were promised, and not as they must be and will be. Bringing hurt to public expression is an important first step in the dismantling criticism that permits a new reality, theological and social, to emerge. That cry which begins history is acknowledged by Yahweh as history gathers power:
Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians. (Exodus 3:7-8)
And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you. Exodus 3:9-10.
Walter Brueggemann: The Prophetic Imagination, Minneapolis: Fortress Press 2001, 2nd edition, p:31-32: Solomon was able to counter completely the counterculture of Moses.
1. He countered the economics of equality with the economic of affluence. The contrast is clear and sharp. Mosais experience had this kind of vision: “He that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; each gathered according to what he could eat” (Exodus 16:18). Here there is no thought of surplus and the accumulation of consumer goods, for that is all over by the time one sits at the royal table in Jersusalem.
2. He countered the politics of justice with the politics of oppression. Mosaic experience had this kind of vision:
Leviticus 25:35-42: If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you… For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves.
That is all over by the time Solomon gets around to forced labor to enhance his rule.
3. He countered the religon of God’s freedom with the religion of God’s accessibility. Mosaic experience had this kind of vision of God’s freedom. Moses had insisted on God’s presence: “Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from all other people that are upon the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:16). But Yahweh answers in his uncompromising freedom, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But… you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:19-20).
Solomon managed what one would think is not possible, for he had taken the Mosaic innovation and rendered it null and void. In tenth-century Jerusalem it is as though the whole revolution and social experiment had not happened. The long sequence of imperial history went on as though it had not been interrupted by this revelation of the liberating God. Solomon managed a remarkable continuity with the very Egyptian reality that Moses had sought to counter.
It need hardly be added that the Solomonic regime was able to silence criticism. There are two ways to silence criticism. One is the way of heavy-handed prohibition that is backed by forceful sanction… It is curious that, given the extended criticism of Ahijah the prophet in 1 Kings 11, Solomon makes no response. Indeed, the prophet is ignored. That is the second way of handling criticism: develop a neutral immunity and remain totally impervious to criticism…
P46: I believe that the proper idiom for the prophet in cutting through the royal numbness and denial is the language of grief, the rhetoric that engages the community in mourning for a funeral they do not want to admit. It is indeed their own funeral.
… And I believe that grief and mourning, that crying in pathos, is the ultimate form of criticism, for it announces the sure end of the whole royal arrangement. [And it also gives hope that something new can happen.]
P64: What a commission it is to express a future that none think imaginable! Of course, this cannot be done by inventing new symbols, for that is wishful thinking. Rather, it means to move back into the deepest memories of this community and activate those very symbols that have always been the basis for contradicting the regnant consciousness. Therefore, the symbols of hope cannot be general and universal but must be those that have been known concretely in this particular history… The memory of this community begins in God’s promissory address to the darkness of chaos, to barren Sarah, and to oppressed Egyptian slaves. The speech of God is first about an alternative future.
P95: The radical criticims embodied in the crucifixion can be discerned in the “passion announcements” …
Mark 8:31: And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. / Mark 9:31: For he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” / Mark 10:33-34: See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.
There is no more radical criticism than these statements, for they announced that the power of God takes the form of death and that real well-being and victory only appear via death. So the sayings dismantle the dominant theories of power by asserting that all such would-be power is in fact no-power. Thus the passion announcements of Jesus are the decisive dismissal of every self-serving form of power upon which the royal consciousness is based.
Grief – a people in mourning – a church in mourning for the nation – cuts through the numbness and denial of the dominant culture (grief in this sense is political), and declares that, even here in Australia, we suffer from injustice and people are hurting. We are a lost people. When you – we as a church – express a broken heart over the state of the nation, we do not wag a finger at anyone or lecture anyone with a proud posture, but our grief – our tears – are probably more convicting than anything that we may say.
I hear about preachers that warn people about the final judgement with tears in their eyes and their tears speak a louder or more compelling message than the mere warnings without the tears. Australia is a rich country – full of material possessions – but we no longer know who we are – what we believe, what our values are, where we are going. Questions of religion or even world view are banished from public discourse and our leaders, from the Prime Minister down, must have views on fixing the economy but they must not hold views about the purpose of life. Religion, so we say, has no place in politics. But we all hold values and they are informed by what we believe about the origin and purpose of life. A healthy economy by itself will not make anyone happy. I see people who have all the “toys” but are being bored with life. Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit because theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
When Jesus began to speak, he spoke to his disciples as a group, a community. We need each other in this because, as we grieve together, we demonstrate that together we believe in the possibility of a different community, one where God reigns. You cannot demonstrate the vision of a new community on your own, but together – and God designed us to be “church” together – we inspire (we are meant to inspire) hope for how cities and nations can live together in righteousness and justice.
Immediately, after the sermon opening, Jesus said:
Matthew 5:13-16: You [together] are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You [together] are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
There is a great calling on us as a church, and we have no message if we cannot live together in unity and righteousness.
Jesus practiced what he preached, full of compassion and aware of what the people before him needed most:
Matthew 9:35-38: Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvestis plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Matthew 15:29-32: Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
Preaching the kingdom and healing the sick ministered to people, but it wasn’t just the icing on the cake of an otherwise pleasant life. They were “like sheep without a shepherd” – “harrassed and helpless” – meaning that they lacked direction – wisdom and knowledge about the love of God and the meaning of life and how we are meant to live – and Jesus addressed all of that with compassion, truth and power.
Once, people were so hungry for what Jesus had for them from God that they forgot even to eat for three days. Their hunger for God was greater than their hunger for bread which was also the experience of Rolland and Heidi Baker during the floods of Mozambique in 2000. Starving people wanted tracts about Jesus more than food.
This is our calling. Together, we preach and demonstrate the kingdom of God, his reign, and how it affects living under the leadership of the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for us.
How can we do this? How can we remain “poor in spirit”, “mourning” and “hungering and thirsting for righteousness”, and not settle for the successes along the way? Jesus was again and again moved by compassion, and we can ask him for the same compassion – given to us by the Holy Spirit. Jesus did so much for us. He suffered and died and rose again, and he saved us despite the darkness in our hearts. We can be moved by what he has done for us and an encounter with him – an experience of his nature and an experience of his love – will intensify everything even more. I want to play you a video clip where Heidi Baker shares her testimony, an encounter with Jesus that changed her life, and the testimony will be about accepting the calling to remain “poor in spirit” and embrace the suffering of “hungering and thirsting for righteousness” in a world that is unjust. Let this speak to you:
Playing the eight-minute video clip.
Rolland and Heidi Baker: There Is Always Enough, Tonbridge: Sovereign World 2003, p39: My (Heidi’s) heart was burning up for these unwanted children Rolland had found in Mozambique, and I could hardly wait to get there. He returned from his short visit in January of 1995, and we began sending formal proposals to Mozambique’s government for the operation of Chihango. I had finished my doctorate, and in August Rolland agreed that while he kept working on his, I should go on ahead of him. Yet again we were starting fresh in a new mission field. We had no plan, no money and no idea how we were going to get enough support to take care of so many extremely needy people. But we pushed ahead, counting on God to direct us as we went.
Rolland and Heidi Baker: There Is Always Enough, Tonbridge: Sovereign World 2003, p45: Chihango was filling up quickly, and by December of 1996 we thought we had reached our limits. “No more!” we insisted. “We’re full; that’s it!” We were bursting with well over three hundred children, many newly arrived from the streets and very difficult to watch over with our small staff.
Rolland and Heidi Baker: There Is Always Enough, Tonbridge: Sovereign World 2003, p48-52: But our lives were not to become routine at all, and, in fact, we were about to be radically resifted. We were working eighteen-hour days and often battling with corrupt government bureaucrats. We were quickly wearing out. I had served the Lord joyfully and eagerly for over twenty years. I had done everything I could to please Jesus in Mozambique. He was doing amazing things. But I was exhausted and getting steadily weaker and sicker. The constant responsibility of having over three hundred children looking to me as their “Mama Aida” had simply worn me out. I had been on antibiotics six times in two months for various infections and dysentery, and then I developed pneumonia. The doctors were concerned that I had tuberculosis. I knew I needed recharging and felt compelled to go to the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF), a church in Canada that was experiencing an unusual, powerful, wonderful move of the Holy Spirit. It had become a spiritual “intensive care ward” for people all over the world who desperately needed a refreshing overhaul, and I wanted to be there.
I checked myself out of the hospital and got on a plane to Toronto. Physically I was taking a risk by rejecting my doctor’s advice and going on such a long trip. My lungs were filled with fluid, and I could barely breathe. Financially we were very low. But I had to go!
Rolland had just returned from Toronto and had had a dramatically great time with God there. He was full of faith and compassion, which made me want to get there all the more. I stopped off in California briefly to see my parents and again was put in the hospital. I could hardly walk. It was very difficult to breathe, but all I could think of was how hungry I was for a touch from God. I was so sick and exhausted. I longed for a simple, nonstressful job. I had ten years of higher education, but at this point I didn’t even want to teach, because I didn’t know what to teach anymore.
When I arrived at TACF, I was healed in the first meeting. The Lord mercifully opened up my lungs and allowed me to breathe effortlessly for the first time in weeks. I spent many hours receiving prayer from loving people on the ministry team. It was deeply healing to be ministered to after preaching and teaching for so many years. Carol Arnott and Sharon Wright especially ministered to me in prayer for hours. I had never experienced such loving, compassionate, unhurried prayer ministry.
Often during my time at TACF, I was on the floor before the Lord, unable to move. His presence was so heavy upon me. One night at the end of a meeting, I was still unable to move. I was rather hidden behind the altar and began to get slightly nervous as Betty the security guard was calling, “Okay, everyone! It’s time to go!” The Lord spoke to my heart and said, “I am sending a precious servant to rescue you.” I couldn’t even move my little finger. Betty came over and gently asked me how I was doing. She got a couple of people to help lift me into a chair. The love and mercy that flowed out of her was life-transforming. The Lord taught me so much during those times of utter weakness. His presence was so strong upon me that I felt as if a blanket of liquid love was laid upon me. He demonstrated that He is my only strength. He is my hope. I depend only on Him. I can do nothing without Him and nothing without the Body of Christ.
One night I was groaning in intercession for the children of Mozambique. There were thousands coming toward me, and I was crying, “No, Lord. There are too many!” Then I had a dramatic, clear vision of Jesus. I was with Him, and thousands and thousands of children surrounded us. I saw His shining face and His intense, burning eyes of love. [Heidi and Rolland Baker: The Hungry Always Get Fed, Chichester: New Wine Ministries 2007, p31: He gazed at me with eyes of love that pierced my soul. He looked right into me with eyes that were like liquid oil and fire at the same time. He melted my heart. His face was so indescribably glorious, shining and bright…] I also saw His body. It was bruised and broken, and His side was pierced. He said, “Look into My eyes. You give them something to eat.” Then He took a piece of His broken body and handed it to me. It became bread in my hands, and I began to give it to the children. It multiplied in my hands. Then again the Lord said, “Look into My eyes. You give them something to drink.” He gave me a cup of blood and water, which flowed from His side. I knew it was a cup of bitterness and joy. I drank it and then began to give it to the children to drink. The cup did not go dry. By this point I was crying uncontrollably. I was completely undone by His fiery eyes of love. I realized what it had cost Him to provide such spiritual and physical food for us all. The Lord spoke to my heart and said, “There will always be enough, because I died.” [Heidi and Rolland Baker: The Hungry Always Get Fed, Chichester: New Wine Ministries 2007, p31: Then Jesus said to me, “I died so that there would always be enough.”]
Jesus can make you fall in love with him. And he can overcome your weariness. (Heidi screaming “no”.) He is a wonderful Saviour, and he does provide all the resources that you need: “I died so that there would always be enough.” But there is a cup of suffering to drink – a cup of suffering and joy (joy because there will be enough and, according to Rolland Baker, joy because you could not handle the suffering if there was no joy). Jesus asked Heidi to drink this cup and also give it to all of the children which was not something that she naturally wanted to be doing. How can you ask children to embrace a life-style of suffering? Jesus gave her a cup of suffering and joy which was the same as preaching to the disciples:
Matthew 5:2-10: Blessed [happy and joyful] are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed [happy and joyful] are those who mourn, for they will be comforted… Blessed [happy and joyful] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed [happy and joyful] are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy…
What was the suffering that Heidi was to drink? What cup of suffering are we to drink this morning? What is Jesus’ preaching about? See beyond the numbers of the crowds. See the suffering. See the orphans. See those that despair of life, those lacking food, the refugees in our midst, the victims of domestic violence. Don’t close your eyes and avoid the suffering. See the need and get involved. Our job is not finished.
Blessed [happy and joyful] are the poor in spirit (mourning and hungering for righteousness), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. This is the same as saying: Blessed are you when you drink the cup of suffering and joy, for Jesus died so that there would always be enough. Be “poor in spirit” – drink the cup of suffering and joy – and change the world. Amen.