About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?")
~ Matthew 27:46
What happens when we are forsaken by the church? Yesterday I spent time with a family who found that their church had, "fallen away from us."
Nearly two decades ago, the death of a husband limited the ability for the wife to attend. As the wife got older, one of the children began spending more time caring for her mother, until she became the full-time caregiver. During this time the church experienced several leadership changes, and the family was forgotten.
Now, the wife is dying and when I inquired about her faith community, the daughter shared that they were members of a particular church, but they didn't want to reach out to the church because they felt that, "it was too late."
It's really heartbreaking. It's hard to know who is at fault when this occurs. We have all seen people leave churches for various reasons, and the environment of some faith communitues has been, and continues to be about change.
As I layed awake in bed last night, listening to a thunderstorm that rattled our home, I thought of everything this family was thinking and experiencing. I thought about my own experience as a new pastor in a congregation and learning of a member's death, and how I felt when I realized that I didn't know of her ever attending the church, and how the family reacted after the death. When I did reach out, I was told, "Oh, now you decide to call."
Even as Jesus hangs on the cross, he cries out to God, "Why have you forsaken me?"
Everyone seems to gasp at these words, but we all have experienced, or felt, that God is not present or listening to us. We are reminded that each of us belong in the church and that we have specific purposes in the body of Christ, but our ability to "show up" and perform that duty is overwhelmed by the human condition.
I wish there was something I could do for this family, but their wound is real, and for the woman who is dying, will always remain. I'm grateful that God never forsakes us, even when we have failed. That wholeness prevails at the moment of our death, and that the resurrection exists so that we are able to rise from all of our life experiences, including the times when we have felt forsaken.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2018
God of the Forsaken
My God! My God, why have You forsaken us –
Forsaken us in the painful groans of the crucified!
In His miserable helplessness,
We are even more helpless,
the million and
My God! The nails that pierced my Lord, cruelly
surely also pierced humanity;
The stares from Calvary’s spectators are ours:
The unspoken doubt that all
ends in a silent cry,
empty of light and
My God! That my Lord’s life should end,
watched by crowds filled with rejection.
Loved only by a terrified few
watching in fear,
leaves us all in
My God! Into that cold stone tomb
fall our best desires;
The visions of our youth
succumb to dark shadows,
and even in rebellious desperation
in the darkness
Dear God! On that darkest of Fridays You did not forsake us!
Not Jesus, nor any other desolate child of humanity –
That day You entered all of our forsakedness,
testing for Yourself the flavor of death
shaping the valley of the shadow
to become a pathway of
We praise You, O God! We proclaim You to be Lord!
Hated and rejected, One of sorrow and grief
great and marvelous are Your works!
Wounded for our transgressions,
bruised for our iniquities,
God is with us!
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.