It’s the Same Space

One of the problems with our tendency to avoid feeling sorrow is that we miss one of the key blessings Jesus talks about: the blessing of being comforted (Matthew 5:4).

The truth is life is hard.

There are going to be times when you’re going to hurt.

No amount of effort can really protect you from that.

So the question isn’t “will I experience loss?”  Of course you will.  The answer to that question is yes.  You’ll experience loss.  Everyone does.

The real question is, “in your loss, will you experience comfort?”

And that depends.  That depends on whether you avoid the feelings connected to loss or your mask the feelings connected to loss or you allow yourself to truly mourn.

The blessing of feeling the pain, the blessing of mourning, Jesus says, is comfort.  

Not distance from the pain.  Not numbness of the pain. Comfort.

Comfort is something different from the pain that enters the pain-filled place and changes it.

The word Jesus uses (that we translate “comfort”) evokes the picture of a trusted friend coming alongside you and holding our hand.

It’s the same word Jesus uses when He talks about the Holy Spirit.

In this moment of being comforted, something very powerful happens: this place where you feel pain becomes the place where you experience God’s loving presence.  It’s the same place.

I’ve sat with people in deep grief who have said to me “I didn’t even know I could feel this kind of pain.”

It’s like the sorrow has carved out a new place in their heart, created this all new cavity that wasn’t there before.  And this space that pain makes becomes the space that the presence of God can fill.  It’s the same space.

Jesus doesn’t say, “Pain is good.”

Jesus doesn’t say, “Seek sadness.”

But he does say that there is a blessing in mourning – that sorrow carves out new space in our hearts where nothing except the presence of God will help, but that the presence of God will help – and that in our sadness we will be comforted.

[ You can hear the whole sermon, “Why Are You Crying?” here.]

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My Privilege

Two thoughts challenged me, this morning, as I struggled to wake, built a fire, brewed coffee, and began to pray:

First, the recipient’s response to a gift is the surest sign of it’s perceived value.  We witnessed responses that ran the gamut this week: from the mildly amused, “that’s nice” to the emotional, heart-felt, “thank you!”  After preaching all Advent about the Gift to come, I’m now wondering about my response.  Am I barely interested or blown-away-grateful?

Second, worshipping Jesus is a privilege.  Sometimes I don’t feel like going to church.  Sometimes the weight of spiritual leadership feels extremely heavy.  But what I need (though I’m often slow to realize it) is to take my place in our community and to worship.  How fortunate am I?  “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to me on whom his favor rests.”*

May I respond to the Gift I’ve received by embracing the privilege of worship.

*[Luke 2:14]

More Than a Little Disturbed

Magi from the east declare, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

“When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”  (Matthew 2)

Why was Jerusalem disturbed?  What had they to lose?

Herod feared for his throne.  But the people?  Why weren’t they celebrating the arrival of the Deliverer long-awaited, the Savior promised by prophets?  Why were they troubled?


Because they had grown comfortable.  And they feared the disturbance of their comfort.

John Chrysostom (4th Century) wrote this:
Although troubled, they nevertheless did not try to understand what was happening.  They did not follow the wise men or even take any particular notice.  To this extent were they both contentious and careless.


Contentious and careless.

They chose annoyance over adoration.  Disdain over devotion.

Don’t disrupt the status quo, Jesus.  We like it as it is.  We prefer bondage to a police state which tells us what to think/buy/feel.  Don’t mess with our comfort, Jesus.

Worship is too high a price to pay for freedom.